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People who read live longer than those who don’t, Yale researchers say
The benefits of reading should not be understated, even when it comes to living a longer life. A new study finds that reading books in particular returns cognitive gains that increase longevity.
Bookworms rejoice! A new study in the journal Social Science and Medicine just discovered that people who read books live longer than people who don't.
Researchers at Yale University asked 3,635 participants over 50 years-old about their reading habits. From that data, they split the cohort into 3 groups: non-readers, people who read less than 3.5 hours per week, and people who read more than 3.5 hours per week. The researchers followed up with each group for 12 years. The people who read the most were college-educated women in the higher-income group.
Over the course of the study, the researchers consistently found that both groups of readers lived longer than the non-readers. The readers who read over 3.5 hours a week lived a full 23 months longer than the people who didn't read at all. That extended lifespan applied to all reading participants, regardless of "gender, wealth, education or health" factors, the study explains. That's a 20% reduction in mortality created by a sedentary activity. That's a big deal, and a very easy fix for improving quality of life in anyone over 50.
Credit: Social Science and Medicine
The results get better. “Compared to non-book readers," the authors continue, “book readers had a 4-month survival advantage," at the age when 20% of their peers passed away. “Book readers also experienced a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up compared to non-book readers." The authors continue:
"Further, our analyses demonstrated that any level of book reading gave a significantly stronger survival advantage than reading periodicals. This is a novel finding, as previous studies did not compare types of reading material; it indicates that book reading rather than reading in general is driving a survival advantage."
The reason books had greater gains than periodicals is because book reading involves more cognitive faculties. The readers didn't begin with higher cognitive faculties than the non-readers; they simply engaged in the activity of reading, which heightened those faculties. “This finding suggests that reading books provide a survival advantage due to the immersive nature that helps maintain cognitive status," said the study's authors.
As any book lover knows, reading involves two major cognitive processes: deep reading, and emotional connection. Deep reading is a slow process where the reader engages with the book and seeks to understand it within its own context and within the context of the outside world. Emotional connection is where the reader empathizes with the characters, and that promotes social perception and emotional intelligence. Those cognitive processes were cited by the Yale team and used as markers for this study. While they apparently offer a survival advantage, “better health behaviors and reduced stress may explain this process [as well]," according to the study. Still, those cognitive benefits are real, as writer Nicholas Sparr explains:
All the data was self-reported via phone survey and it didn't really account for ebooks, but it's still encouraging. There are no real downsides to reading, other than making the time for it. But if you're not convinced and would rather have John Green teach you literature instead of reading the classics for yourself, philosopher and Yale University Dean Jeffrey Brenzel lays out 5 additional pro-reading benefits for you:
Some mysteries take generations to unfold.
- In 1959, a group of nine Russian hikers was killed in an overnight incident in the Ural Mountains.
- Conspiracies about their deaths have flourished ever since, including alien invasion, an irate Yeti, and angry tribesmen.
- Researchers have finally confirmed that their deaths were due to a slab avalanche caused by intense winds.
a: Last picture of the Dyatlov group taken before sunset, while making a cut in the slope to install the tent. b: Broken tent covered with snow as it was found during the search 26 days after the event.
Photographs courtesy of the Dyatlov Memorial Foundation.<p>Finally, a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s43247-020-00081-8" target="_blank">new study</a>, published in the Nature journal Communications Earth & Environment, has put the case to rest: it was a slab avalanche.</p><p>This theory isn't exactly new either. Researchers have long been skeptical about the avalanche notion, however, due to the grade of the hill. Slab avalanches don't need a steep slope to get started. Crown or flank fractures can quickly release as little as a few centimeters of earth (or snow) sliding down a hill (or mountain). </p><p>As researchers Johan Gaume (Switzerland's WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF) and Alexander Puzrin (Switzerland's Institute for Geotechnical Engineering) write, it was "a combination of irregular topography, a cut made in the slope to install the tent and the subsequent deposition of snow induced by strong katabatic winds contributed after a suitable time to the slab release, which caused severe non-fatal injuries, in agreement with the autopsy results."</p><p>Conspiracy theories abound when evidence is lacking. Twenty-six days after the incident, a team showed up to investigate. They didn't find any obvious sounds of an avalanche; the slope angle was below 30 degrees, ruling out (to them) the possibility of a landslide. Plus, the head injuries suffered were not typical of avalanche victims. Inject doubt and crazy theories will flourish.</p>
Configuration of the Dyatlov tent installed on a flat surface after making a cut in the slope below a small shoulder. Snow deposition above the tent is due to wind transport of snow (with deposition flux Q).
Photo courtesy of Communications Earth & Environment.<p>Add to this Russian leadership's longstanding battle with (or against) the truth. In 2015 the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation decided to reopen this case. Four years later the agency concluded it was indeed a snow avalanche—an assertion immediately challenged within the Russian Federation. The oppositional agency eventually agreed as well. The problem was neither really provided conclusive scientific evidence.</p><p>Gaume and Puzrin went to work. They provided four critical factors that confirmed the avalanche: </p><ul><li>The location of the tent under a shoulder in a locally steeper slope to protect them from the wind </li><li>A buried weak snow layer parallel to the locally steeper terrain, which resulted in an upward-thinning snow slab</li><li>The cut in the snow slab made by the group to install the tent </li><li>Strong katabatic winds that led to progressive snow accumulation due to the local topography (shoulder above the tent) causing a delayed failure</li></ul><p>Case closed? It appears so, though don't expect conspiracy theories to abate. Good research takes time—sometimes generations. We're constantly learning about our environment and then applying those lessons to the past. While we can't expect every skeptic to accept the findings, from the looks of this study, a 62-year-old case is now closed.</p><p> --</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
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Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.