Is It True: That People Who Read Books Live Longer?

Posted on November 19, 2016 in Books, Is It True

By Sourodipto Sanyal:

Reading books for some is a pain. A pain so real that they have probably never read a book outside of school or college. While for others, it is a way of life. It’s such an essential part of their daily existence that you’ll see them with a book inside the most crowded metros, five-star hotels and even while they are waiting in a long queue. For such people, reading a book is a need along with a luxury.

For avid readers who refuse to get distracted by the excesses of modernity, researchers from Yale claim to have some wonderful news. A study claims that people who read books have a longer life span. The cognitive benefit of reading something as engaging as a book is said to be responsible for the increase in lifespan. The study was based on a survey of over 3500 people who were 50 years or older and had different reading habits. They were revisited after 12 years to see if they were alive or not.

After revisiting the people who were part of this survey, researchers found out that 33% of the people who never read at all had died. The mortality rate of the ones who had been reading books for the past 12 years was much less. Only 27% of the ones who read books died. Reading provided a ‘survival advantage’ of 23 months. The study wasn’t just limited to the impact of books on the lifespan. It was also found out that people who read books had a larger likelihood of survival than those who read periodicals or magazines. Interestingly, this is supposed to be because a book adds more ‘cognitive benefit’ as it engages the reader’s mind more.

Yet, we must always note that such studies are not definitive. Now, there are always a few problems associated with studies and surveys like this one. The possibility of a coincidence is always there. Anyhow, a sample size of fewer than 4,000 people is too small to come to a definite conclusion.


Even other observations from the study should make us ask questions. People who read books instead of periodicals or magazine are said to live longer as it provides more ‘cognitive benefit’. Doesn’t that depend on what book or magazine an individual is reading? Should we be made to believe that an individual who reads a detective story for kids is at the receiving end of more ‘cognitive benefit’ than someone who is reading a journal published by the Harvard University Press?

The study was conducted by a research team from Yale. And perhaps because of the inexhaustible reputation of the University, top international newspapers like The Guardian and The New York Times felt it was something which had to be reported.

It is too early to say whether there is truth in this research. Yet, we all should hope that the study is true. The idea of life will be made even more wonderful if we get to know for sure that the best habit in the world is also a gateway to having a longer life.