How reading improves health


To be curled on a couch with a gripping book on a lazy summer afternoon is what dreams are made of. We instinctively know that reading is good for our health and happiness without knowing how or why. Read on to understand the mechanisms behind the health benefits of reading.

Linked to a longer life: A study published in Social Science & Medicine says that reading books could increase lifespan. The study revealed that adults who read books for more than 3.5 hours per week were 23% less likely to die over 12 years of follow-up compared with those who did not read books.

This is because reading can promote empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival. Also, reading can increase connectivity between brain cells lowering the risk of neurodegenerative diseases that shorten lifespan.

Reduces stress: According to a University of Sussex study, reading (68% reduction in stress) relaxes you more than listening to music, drinking tea or coffee or walking. In the study, the heart rates of participants decreased and muscle tension eased after only six minutes of silent reading.

Promotes relaxation and sleep: Reading relaxes the body and mind and can induce sleep. Creating a bedtime ritual of reading a printed book can promote sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. In contrast, using an e-reader or watching television at bedtime can disrupt sleep.

Prevents cognitive decline: Reading strengthens the brain’s short-term memory and recall capabilities. It could help slow down or even prevent cognitive decline. A recent study showed that elderly people who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease.

Helps with depression: Participants of a reading group diagnosed with depression reported feeling better over a 12-month period. They said they felt more confident, more willing to talk, to listen and to interact with others.

Boosts happiness: A University of Toronto study suggests that fiction allows the reader to engage with the characters, which may lead to increased empathy with others in reality. This way reading helps people make friends keeping loneliness at bay, thereby boosting health and happiness.

Sources:,, thebookinsider.coma

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