Healthy You: Curling up with a good book is good for you

The characteristics of an ideal day of relaxation differ for everyone. Some people might envision boating on a favorite lake, while others may want to plant their feet firmly in the sand at a local beach.
Regardless of what serves as the focal point of a day of relaxation, it’s not uncommon for individuals to crack open a good book at some point during their day of R&R.
Books can serve as a great form of escapism, but they offer much more than that.

In fact, curling up with one can benefit readers in ways that might surprise even the most devoted bookworms:
♦ Reading helps readers understand the world. Avid bibliophiles might crack a book as a way to escape the world without realizing that this pursuit also is helping them comprehend what’s happening around them.
A 2015 study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that reading fiction enhances social cognition by facilitating greater activation of parts of the prefrontal cortex involved in building perspectives.
♦ Reading can be therapeutic for adults with depression. A 2017 study in Clinical Psychology Review examined bibliotherapy, which involves the use of selected reading materials to support a patient’s mental health. It found that bibliotherapy effectively reduces depressive symptoms in adults over a long period of time.
♦ Reading can help prolong life. Perhaps the most significant benefit of reading relates to its apparent connection to living longer. A 2016 study published in Social Science & Medicine observed a 20% reduction in mortality for individuals who read books compared to those who did not. Curiously, books were more effective at reducing mortality than periodicals, like magazines.
♦ Reading can prevent long-term decline in cognitive function, a common concern for aging individuals and their families. However, a 2021 study published in International Psychogeriatrics found that reading can protect cognitive function later in life. The study found that frequent reading activities were associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline for older adults at all education levels.
Millions of people consider curling up with a good book an ideal recreational activity. Though it can be a perfect pastime, reading provides a host of additional benefits, perhaps making it an even better way to relax than avid readers realize.