Umberto Eco, who was a famous Italian novelist, once said that books make us live many lives, and this is certainly true. When we read we identify with the characters, we travel, discover and get excited. But reading a book also makes our life longer, as demonstrated by a scientific research published a few years ago in the journal Social Science and Medicine thanks to the work of a team from the Yale University School of Public Health (Bavishi et al, Soc Sci Med, 2017).
Sedentary living increases the risk of mortality, especially in older people. This is true, but a generally sedentary activity such as reading books seems to have the opposite effect. Reading books, in fact, would lengthen your life! The researchers analyzed the habits of 3.635 people over 50 years of age. In particular, they were asked how many hours a week they spent reading books, newspapers and magazines. Participants were then followed up for an average of 9 years to assess their health status. What emerged was that, in the period analyzed, those who read books had shown a 20% reduction in mortality compared to those who did not read books. This protective effect was observed regardless of the educational level of study participants and was reported only for books. Reading magazines and newspapers did not show the same protective effect. The researchers explained the results considering that reading a book leads the person to immerse deeply in the action and is able to stimulate cognitive functions by making connections with past experiences, with the outside world and also recalling words. Not only that, reading books stimulates empathy and fights stress. These are all factors that affect people's survival skills.
The article mentions the fact that people over 65 on average watch about 4.4 hours of television a day. As pointed out by the authors of the study, trying to replace, at least in part, the time spent in front of the television with reading a book would certainly benefit the state of health and longevity.