The Benefits of Reading

The Benefits of Reading

For many reading is an enjoyable activity whether it's to learn, relax or investigate.

But did you know of the benefits associated with reading? Here you will find a summary of such benefits with links to the research provided.

Cognitive Maintenance 

  • As with all parts of the body, the brain's performance declines during old age and this is independent of any neurological afflictions that may also arise at this stage of life. 
  • A study has shown that increased cognitive activity, such as reading, across an individuals life span has an association with slower late-life cognitive decline
  • "higher levels of cognitive activity in childhood, middle age, and old age were associated with slower rate of cognitive decline, together accounting for nearly 15% of variability in cognitive decline not attributable to neuropathologic burden".

Survival 

  • Amazingly, another study provides evidence that reading books (as opposed to periodicals such as newspapers) brings a survival advantage.
  • The study analysed data collected from 1991-2012 on reading habits, cognitive scores and mortality among retired people.
  • While any reading provided a lower risk of mortality against no reading at all, it was also shown that book reading provided a 20% lower risk of mortality compared to non-book reading over 12 years.   
  • "This finding suggests that reading books provide a survival advantage due to the immersive nature that helps maintain cognitive status." - Page 47.

Social Awareness

  • Research has suggested that reading literary fiction enhances a persons ability to identify and understand other people's subjective states (Theory of Mind).
  • This study featured several experiments whereby subjects were made to read literary fiction, popular fiction and sometimes nothing. These subjects then took Theory of Mind tests with the result of those having read literary fiction consistently scoring higher on these tests
  • This improvement in Theory of Mind has only been shown to be short-term, however the authors suggest that further research could show long-term stable improvements through exclusively reading literary fiction. 

Childhood Development 

  • A study has shown the link between childhood reading and cognitive development.
  • The researchers analysed data about the reading habits of young people and their academic performance. 
  • The study found that children who read for pleasure made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.
  • Reading for pleasure was shown to be more important for cognitive development than parental education.

 

Image taken by Arnaud Titoy

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