Study: Reading a book can help extend your life, increase overall happiness

Reading has several health benefits

As an adult, if you are not a frequent reader you aren't alone.

According to one survey, one in four Americans say they haven't read a book in the past year. That means many people are missing several large health benefits.

A 2016 Yale University study looked at more than 3,600 over a period of 12 years to determine the effect reading had on longevity.

Here's how they ran the study: 

The people were divided into three groups. One group read more than 3 and 1/2 hours per week, another group read up to 3 and 1/2 hours per week, and the final group did not read at all. The people who read books more than 3 and 1/2 hours a week were 23 percent less likely to die at a given age compared to people who didn't read at all. The group that read up to 3 and 1/2 hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die.  

In the study, people who read newspapers and magazines also had a better survival rate, but it wasn't as good as the book readers, leading the researchers to conclude that it was partially the immersive nature of books that provided the additional advantage.  

Benefits of reading

While it's not clear how reading improves survival, other studies have shown that reading can improve social connections, particualrly by helping readers see the world through the eyes of a books characters.

Reading can also reduce stress. In one study, just 6 minutes of reading led to a slowed heart rate and less muscle tension.  

Going one step further, reading can help relax your body and mind before bed. Just be sure to read a print book and avoid the bright screen of an e-reader that will throw off your melatonin production.

Reading has even been linked to greater life happiness. In one study, 27 percent of people said reading a certain book inspired them to make life-changing decisions -- 36 percent were inspired to travel and 19 percent were encouraged to start a new hobby. 

About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.