Study suggests reading may be linked to a longer life

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COLUMBIA - A study released by Social Science & Medicine has linked reading books to a longer life. Results show, out of more than 3,000 subjects, those who read as compared to those who did not saw a 20 percent reduction in death rates.

Patrick Finney, an outreach manager at the Daniel Boone Regional Library in Columbia, said he was not surprised by the study and has seen firsthand the benefits of reading. 

"It absolutely makes sense to me. Anytime that you can remain active in any way, physically or mentally, you make your life better, in which case it seems intuitive to me that your life is longer," he said. 

Finney works to get reading services to those homebound or in assisted living. Many of the people served by Finney fit the age and demographic profile of the study, which only included subjects 50 years of age or older. 

"When we visit people who are in a nursing home or an assisted living facility, so many people tell us how important it is for them to have novels, non-fiction, whatever it is," Finney said. "To have access to that kind of material brings enrichment to their lives that is sometimes difficult to get in a place where you don't necessary have the ability to leave." 

Finney highlighted one memorable experience with a Columbia resident who just got out of hospice. The first thing she did was ask for a book. 

"This is a person who, up until the very end, is reading and we are helping her do that," Finney said. 

The study focused on three groups over a 12-year period: one which read nothing, another that read at a maximum of three and a half hours a week and then the other read three and a half hours or more in a week.

People who read for three and a half hours or less were 17 percent less likely to die by the end of the study. Those who read more were 23 percent less likely to die.

The study said there may be a "survival advantage" to reading more, including cognitive development. Researchers also said it does not depend on gender, race, health, wealth or education, when it comes to reading the benefits are across the board.