reading books
Library users browse for books on the Cornwall County Council mobile library lorry at Rock, near Bodmin, England, Jan. 20, 2011. Getty Images/Matt Cardy

Reading books may have the capacity to increase a person’s life span, by at least a few months, a new study by Yale University researchers has shown.

Published in the September issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine, the study found that “those who read books have a survival advantage over those who do not read books and over those who read other types of materials.”

The researchers obtained data from a longitudinal Health and Retirement Study, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, and analyzed 3,635 subjects — all older than 50. The subjects were divided into three groups — those who did not read books, those reading for up to 3.5 hours a week and those who read for more than 3.5 hours every week.

All participants self-reported their reading habits and follow-up was carried out for an average of 12 years, monitoring their survival over that period. Variables like education level, income and health status were accounted for.

When compared with adults who read no books, the up-to-3.5-hours group was 17 percent less likely to die over the follow-up period. Results were even better for those who read for over 3.5 hours every week with a 23 percent less chance to die.

The inclination to read was most common among females, college-educated individuals and those with higher incomes, the researchers reported, according to Huffington Post. Reading magazines and newspapers increased survival over non-readers but the effect was significantly lesser than with reading books.

“We found that reading books provided a greater benefit than reading newspapers or magazines. We uncovered that this effect is likely because books engage the reader’s mind more — providing more cognitive benefit, and therefore increasing the lifespan,” Avni Bavishi, one of the co-authors of the paper, said, according to the Guardian.

However, further research is required to understand the exact science behind this phenomenon. The researchers reportedly concluded: “These findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.”

The Washington Post reported a surge in book-buying over the past few years with at least 652 million print and electronic books sold in the United States in 2015. However, according to the World Culture Index, the U.S. stands at the 25th position when it comes to countries that read the most books. The first three positions are claimed by India, Thailand and China.

In the past, research has shown that reading novels may boost both brain connectivity and empathy.