Nothing beats having your views backed by science. As if we need science to prove that reading is good for you, but it's better to put it black and white, so to speak. And if your brain needs reading for health reasons those excuses of avoiding crowds kind of pales in significance.
The University of Michigan collected information as part of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) which included data from over 20,000 retired people from 1992 onwards. Reading habits were a tiny part of this study but in 2016 researchers at the Yale School of Public Health decided to look at twelve years of HRS data about the reading habits and health of more than 3,600 men and women over the age of fifty. They found that people who read books for as little as thirty minutes a day over several years were living an average of two years longer than people who didn’t read anything at all. And even better, book readers who reported more than three hours of reading each week were 23% less likely to die between 2001 and 2012 than their peers who read only newspapers or magazines. So read to live longer.
So what makes reading novels better than magazines?
A study in 2013 indicated that reading fiction developed emotional intelligence and empathy, while those who read only news showed a decrease in such skills. But of course, all reading will expose us to new words, expressions and points of view and thus expand our knowledge and neural pathways as we assess foreign words and concepts, develop thinking skills and concentration. But this fiction thing intrigues me most of all.
According to research conducted at the University of Toronto, study participants who read short-story fiction experienced far less need for "cognitive closure" compared with counterparts who read nonfiction essays. In other words, they are appeared more open-minded, compared with the readers of essays. "Although nonfiction reading allows students to learn the subject matter, it may not always help them in thinking about it," the authors write. "A physician may have an encyclopedic knowledge of his or her subject, but this may not prevent the physician from seizing and freezing on a diagnosis, when additional symptoms point to a different malady." So get reading those novels.
While we all know that the most successful people in all walks of life are avid readers, their chosen subject matter not only includes self-improvement books but fiction as well. The founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, says that he learns more from novels than non-fiction. “If you read The Remains of the Day, which is one of my favourite books, you can’t help but come away and think, I just spent ten hours living an alternate life and I learned something about life and about regret,” Bezos told Newsweek in 2009. “You can’t do that in a blog post.”
In an interview for the Silicon Valley newspaper The Mercury News, Cisco’s former CEO says Mark Twain’s watershed novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn helped him learn to manage dyslexia as a young person. “It was a book that helped me turn one of my greatest challenges into a strength,” he says.
American politician Hilary Clinton says "The Brothers Karamazov made a lasting impression on me when I read it as a young woman. I intend to reread it this summer to see what I now think about it. My favourite short stories are by Alice Munro, especially her collections Carried Away and Runaway. That's an easy choice for me compares with the many poets I've appreciated over time. Included in that list are E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver and W.B. Yeats."
The list of successful people and their reading habits is a long one. But besides reading for success and longevity there are other well-known benefits to regular reading, as many studies have shown.
In conclusion, reading - especially fiction - is scientifically proven to be good for you because it:
Plus it's a hobby you do in all seasons! If you are struggling to up your game, find out how to read more.