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Reading Makes You Live Longer… but is it worth it?

August 11, 2016
Get up and live your life, you bookworm!! (image via wikimedia)

Get up and live your life, you bookworm!! (image via wikimedia)

Everybody who enjoys reading knows there are a lot of benefits from it.  People can become more knowledgeable when they read.  People who read fiction have more empathy than people who don’t read.  Reading can also improve our critical thinking skills.  Now a study shows that reading makes us live longer too.

The study shows (supposedly) that people who read 3 ½  hours a week or more live at least two years longer than people who don’t.  There are a few more numbers in this study, but I don’t like numbers, even though I probably should like numbers because I like to read.  Then again, I don’t like to read math books, so it makes sense that I don’t like numbers.  Still, it seems like two years is the average extended lifespan for people who read books.

Wait a minute.

Two years?  That’s all we get for reading?

I feel cheated.  I’m kind of ticked off the number isn’t higher.  All that time and effort I’ve put into reading, and all I get is two years?  That sucks!

“That sucks!” is something some of my friends would say about reading.  Even though I’ve always been a reader, I’ve had friends who weren’t, and they often thought I was wasting my time by reading so much.  There were other things I could have been doing, according to them, like drinking, getting into trouble, and sleeping around.  Every minute that I was reading kept me from living my life, they said.  My most gracious of friends would admit it was okay to read, but only when drinking, smoking, getting into trouble, and sleeping around weren’t options.

It’s tough to explain reading to somebody who hates to read.  It’s not as fun explaining as getting drunk and getting into trouble and sleeping around.  Those activities are easy and fun to explain.  I can tell great stories about getting drunk, sleeping around, and getting into trouble, and I don’t even get drunk, sleep around, or get into trouble.

If I tell stories about reading, people give me blank stares.  If I explain how awesome a book is, they give me blank stares.  But if I describe my weekend of fictional debauchery, they listen, even if they don’t believe me.

I’ll be honest, I don’t always trust “studies” because researchers can always find a way to support an agenda if they want.  But I like reading, and I want to encourage others to read, so I’m less likely to find fault with a study that I hope is true.  It makes sense to me that people who read live longer (if it’s indeed true), but maybe it’s the lifestyle which goes into reading that makes readers live longer.

Maybe the study isn’t even true.  Some of us might have sedentary habits that could make us unhealthy.  We might sit around while we read.  Sitting too much is unhealthy and can subtract years from our lives.  We also might read in public, increasing the likelihood that we get our heads bashed in by evildoers looking for easy victims, and that’s unhealthy too.  But if you’re going to sit anyway, reading is probably the best activity for you.

I actually believe the study because of what I’ve seen in my own life.  Reading can be a sedentary activity, but my friends who don’t/didn’t read books have/had far more bad habits.  They tend to be the risk takers.  Like I mentioned earlier, they drink too much, smoke, get into fights, drive their cars too fast.  When they were kids, they were the ones who skateboarded off of rooftops or somersaulted off of playground equipment or rode bikes down hill through busy intersections with their eyes closed and hands up in the air.

I tell you, no kid who reads books would ever do crazy stuff like that.  We tend to play the odds more wisely.  And book reading is about the safest thing you can do.  We can read about all that crazy stuff instead of being involved in the crazy stuff.

But two years?  It just seems like we readers should get more extra time than that.

Even if we didn’t get the extra years, I’d still read.  I enjoy reading.  Two extra years doesn’t seem to be enough, but I’ll take them.  It’s better than two fewer years.  And I can read a lot of books in two years.

*****

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10 Comments
  1. Yes! We want to live longer so we can read more!

  2. Sedrntary habits thst could make us unhealthy. ..reading habits are part of it..why living longer could be good reason ?

  3. Anything to get more reading in!

  4. I’m pretty sure the two years we gained from reading, we spent already while reading! XD

  5. I wonder if James Patterson has read those stats and worked out how many more books he can sell to readers in those extra two years?
    I’d be interested to know if writing increases your life expectancy too – surely, they’re similar activities? As I read and write a lot I shall expect to live an extra ten years compared to illiterate friends.
    If this IS the case – will James Patterson live forever?

  6. The benefits of reading goes beyond living two years more. 🙂

  7. I love reading but also doing stupid shit like jumping bikes down whole flights of stairs and stuff. Don’t have to be one or the other. Maybe there’s something wrong with me. 😉

    Sounds like your friends love your storytelling and might like reading in itself. Talking about reading isn’t really interesting unless you are discussing a particular piece of literature or giving/receiving recommendations.

  8. Even without the extra years, reading is worth the sedentary life style and if it comes with 2 bonus years, Voila! Of all the sedentary lifestyle habits, I guess this makes reading the only one which increases life expectancy.

  9. D. A. King permalink

    I don’t know about gaining extra years from reading, but it sounds nice. A day off with a pot of coffee and a good read sounds like a grand time if you ask me!

  10. I really enjoy this post. I think that since readers live through the characters they read about they don’t feel the need to be quite as stupid as those who don’t have such an outlet.

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