WTF Fun Fact 13565 – A Way To Regrow Teeth?

Many of us grapple with tooth loss after an injury or other dental issue – so wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of paying thousands of dollars for a porcelain replacement, scientists found a way to help us regrow teeth?

Well, we’re getting closer!

Researchers from the University of Plymouth have made groundbreaking progress, unveiling a gene that may hold the secret to tooth regeneration.

The Power of Stem Cells

Historically, stem cells have been the beacon of hope in understanding and treating many diseases. That’s because they hold unparalleled potential by being capable of transforming into almost any cell type the body might need. Whether it’s forming new blood cells or rejuvenating bone cells, stem cells are invaluable in helping us recover and regenerate.

It’s no wonder, then, that scientists often harvest stem cells from youthful sources like primary teeth or wisdom teeth. Simply put, younger cells teem with vitality, making them robust candidates for regenerative medicine.

Stem cell therapy has, over the years, provided relief to patients battling conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s and diabetes to multiple sclerosis.

However, only recently have scientists honed in on how stem cells can revolutionize dental health.

Revolutionary Findings to Help Regrow Teeth

Dr. Bing Hu of the Peninsula Dental School at the University of Plymouth and his global team of scientists have uncovered a game-changing revelation: the Dlk1 gene. This gene seems to be the catalyst for enhanced stem cell activation and tissue renewal.

Their journey began with the discovery of a previously unknown group of stem cells in mouse incisors.

Typically found in muscles and bones, these mesenchymal cells spring into action when exposed to the Dlk1 gene. The result? An increased production of dentin – a crucial component in teeth.

Even more impressive was Dlk1’s ability to regenerate tissues in mice with dental injuries.

Future Implications

Of course, with all major discoveries come the caveats. Dr. Hu emphasizes the importance of further studies to cement their initial findings. Yet, he remains optimistic about transitioning from animal models to human trials soon.

This research is a beacon of hope for those who have struggled financially to have lost teeth replaced. Imagine a future where dental procedures are not only more efficient but also more affordable. A future where losing a tooth doesn’t spell permanent loss, but a temporary inconvenience.

While the Plymouth team’s findings are revolutionary, they aren’t the first to tread this path. Back in 2021, a study from Japan revealed the potential of targeting genes to regrow teeth in animals. Their focus? The USAG-1 gene. Fast forward to today, and this Japanese team is setting the stage for a 2024 clinical trial, targeting tooth regeneration in humans.

If all goes well, by 2030, we might be ushering in a new era of dental care.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Humans Have a Third Set of Teeth. New Medicine May Help Them Grow” — Popular Mechanics and “Scientists Discover New Gene That Can Help Repair Teeth” — Today’s RDH

WTF Fun Fact 13558 – Mental Imagery

Teenagers are often vulnerable to spirals of negative thoughts, but new research suggests a possible solution: mental imagery.

The Study on Mental Imagery for Teens

Oregon State’s Hannah Lawrence, an assistant professor of psychology, spearheaded the study. The results indicated that shifting focus to mental imagery acts is a strong distractor. In fact, it’s more of a distraction than simple verbal thoughts for adolescents trapped in negative ruminations.

Lawrence’s insights shine a light on a significant issue. Drowning in past regrets not only deepens one’s sorrow but also makes emotional regulation a greater challenge.

Introducing brief diversions, especially in the form of mental imagery, offers a momentary break from these cyclic patterns. This could potentially facilitate a bridge to more extensive help through therapy, familial support, or friendships.

Experiment Procedure

Published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the research aimed to contrast the impact of verbal thoughts and imagery-based thoughts on the general mood of adolescent participants.

The study encompassed 145 participants, aged 13 to 17, predominantly white, with 62% females. These individuals were from a rural New England area. A striking 39% displayed symptoms consistent with clinical depression.

The mood-setting phase involved an online game, inducing feelings of exclusion among the participants. Subsequently, they were divided into groups, engaging in either rumination or distraction exercises using either verbal or imagery-based prompts.

For rumination, a prompt might be “Imagine the kind of person you think you should be.” For distraction, it could be as mundane as “Think about your grocery list.”

Key Findings on the Power of Mental Imagery

The research found that both forms of rumination (verbal and imagery) affected the participants’ moods similarly. However, mental imagery stood out as a more potent form of distraction.

Lawrence noted, “Using mental imagery seems to help us improve our affect, as well as regulate our nervous system.” The form of negative thoughts, be it verbal or visual, may not matter as much as the relentless focus on distressing matters.

The potency of mental imagery is still not entirely understood. It may be the case that imagery demands more effort and is more immersive. Therefore, it elicits stronger emotional responses, thus serving as a better distraction.

There’s also evidence suggesting that visualizing mental images activates the same brain regions as witnessing those events firsthand.

The Evolution of Rumination

Lawrence has observed that while some adults stick to one form of rumination, most teenagers report employing both verbal thoughts and mental imagery. These patterns might solidify over time, becoming habitual and reinforcing the negative imagery or messages.

Lawrence highlights the crucial nature of her work with teenagers, expressing her hope that early interventions can help these youngsters navigate to adulthood without being tethered to detrimental thought patterns.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Mental imagery a helpful way to distract teens from negative thought patterns” — Science Daily

WTF Fun Fact 13557 – Lucid Dying

A groundbreaking study spearheaded by NYU Grossman School of Medicine explored the concept of “lucid dying” and dives deeper into what is termed as “lucid death experiences.”

Lucid dying refers to the vivid, clear, and conscious experiences that some cardiac arrest survivors recall having when they were supposedly unconscious. The study involved 567 patients. Fewer than 10% made a sufficient recovery after CPR to leave the hospital. But the survivors had some fascinating stories to share. Four 4 out of every 10 of these survivors remembered experiencing some degree of consciousness during CPR.

What the Brain Shows During Lucid Dying

Advanced brain monitoring techniques provide a more in-depth look into what happens during these moments. For some patients, nearly 40% displayed brain activity reverting to normal, or close to normal, even an hour into CPR from a previously “flatline” state. This was measured using EEG technology, a tool that traces brain activity. These patients exhibited spikes in brain waves linked to higher cognitive functions.

Survivors have historically spoken of heightened awareness and potent, lucid experiences during near-death moments. They’ve described sensations such as detaching from their bodies, painlessly observing events, and conducting profound assessments of their actions and relationships throughout their lives. The study emphasizes that these are not mere hallucinations, delusions, or dreams. Instead, they appear distinct from such states and even differ from CPR-induced consciousness.

Why Does This Happen?

Researchers propose that as the brain approaches a “flatlined” state, its natural inhibitory systems get deactivated. This phenomenon is termed disinhibition.

This might grant access to “new dimensions of reality.” These could include vivid memories spanning one’s entire life, seen through a moral lens. The evolutionary reason behind such experiences remains unknown. Still, the fact that they happen prompts further investigation into the mysteries of the human mind and the event of dying.

Clinical Implications of Lucid Dying

Most doctors believe that the brain endures irreversible damage approximately 10 minutes after the heart stops supplying oxygen. However, this research demonstrates the potential for the brain to show signs of electrical recovery well into the CPR process.

Such findings suggest that these recalled experiences and changes in brain waves could be hallmarks of universal elements in so-called near-death situations.

Dr. Sam Parnia, the lead researcher of the study, had an interesting perspective. He noted, “These experiences provide a glimpse into a real, yet little understood dimension of human consciousness that becomes uncovered with death.”

Such insights could lead to innovative methods to restart the heart. They might also help prevent potential brain injuries, or have implications in transplantation procedures.

The AWARE-II Study

The AWAreness during REsuscitation (AWARE)-II study, involved observing 567 individuals who suffered cardiac arrests during their hospitalizations between 2017 and 2020 across the US and UK. By only enrolling hospitalized patients, the study ensured standardized CPR, resuscitation, and brain activity recording methods. A fraction of these patients, 85 in number, underwent brain monitoring throughout their CPR.

Additionally, the testimonies of 126 survivors from the community who remembered their experiences of death were also scrutinized. These helped provide a broader perspective on the themes tied to the recollection of dying.

The research brings up fascinating new hypotheses about lucid dying. But it neither confirms nor refutes the validity or implications of patients’ experiences and awareness during their brushes with death. However, these experiences surrounding death are deemed worthy of more exhaustive scientific investigation.

Future studies may aim to pinpoint biomarkers of clinical consciousness and observe the prolonged psychological aftermath of being resuscitated post-cardiac arrest.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “New evidence indicates patients recall death experiences after cardiac arrest” — Science Daily

WTF Fun Fact 13554 – The Most Dangerous Jobs

When we think of the most dangerous jobs, our minds often drift to high-action roles, like police officers or firefighters. However, statistical data paints a different, more nuanced picture.

It’s not uncommon to hear discussions about the perils of patrolling the streets. However, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sheds light on the occupations that statistically face higher risks daily, and they might not be the ones you’re thinking of.

The Real Most Dangerous Jobs in America

Various blue-collar roles often go unnoticed in their level of peril.

For example, mechanics – both supervisors and those specializing in heavy vehicles – face significant challenges in their workplaces. Heavy vehicle mechanics, dealing with substantial machinery like bulldozers and tractors, confront transportation incidents frequently, with many hazards stemming from the machines they’re entrusted to service.

It’s not just the machinery-oriented jobs that bear these dangers. Those who maintain our public and private spaces, grounds maintenance workers, also navigate risks. Their tasks might appear benign – manicuring lawns, trimming trees, and tending to parks – but their fatal injury rate is on par with heavy vehicle mechanics. Surprisingly, transportation incidents are their predominant threat.

Moreover, general maintenance workers and construction laborers experience considerable hazards. Accidental contact with objects, equipment malfunctions, and falls from significant heights are everyday threats they navigate, often without the same public acknowledgment of their risks.

Perspective on Peril

When juxtaposed with police officers’ fatal injury rate of 14 per 100,000 workers, it becomes evident that several other occupations face equal or even greater threats. The BLS data brings forth an intriguing perspective: while the dangers of law enforcement are well-publicized and recognized, many other workers face similar or heightened risks in relative obscurity.

So the real most dangerous jobs?

  • Logging workers
  • Airline pilot and flight engineers
  • Derrick operators in oil and gas
  • Roofers
  • Garbage collectors
  • Iron workers
  • Delivery drivers
  • Farmers

Even crossing guards rank higher on the deadly jobs list than police officers, which come in at #22. And it’s not that having the 22nd most dangerous job isn’t dangerous – it certainly is. The issue is we don’t often appreciate the extent to which the people who collect our trash or deliver our packages also put their lives on the line every day when they head to work.

Behind the Numbers

The BLS’s Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries is a treasure trove for understanding the nuances of workplace fatalities. This analysis spotlighted 263 professions, each boasting a workforce of at least 50,000 individuals.

To determine the fatal injury rate, fatalities were compared to the number of roles in that occupation. The average from 2014-2018 was then calculated to minimize the influence of yearly variations.

Information regarding the predominant causes of fatal accidents was extracted from this comprehensive census. Simultaneously, salary insights came from the Occupational Employment Statistics Survey.

Recognizing the latent dangers in these professions accentuates the importance of proper safety training and practices. It’s important to acknowledge the sacrifices and challenges faced by these unsung heroes in our everyday lives.

So, the next time you see a mechanic working under a vehicle, a roofer working on a house, or your local trash collector, take a moment to appreciate their dedication and the risks they take daily.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Top 25 most dangerous jobs in the United States” — Industrial Safety and Hygiene News

WTF Fun Fact 13539 – Male Menstruation in Egypt

While male menstruation sounds like an anomaly, accounts from Egypt painted a curious picture.

During the Napoleonic campaigns in the early 19th century, French soldiers noted a peculiar condition among the local Egyptian men: many reported blood in their urine, leading to the label “the land of the menstruating men.”

Deciphering Male Menstruation

The actual cause behind this perplexing phenomenon is a parasitic disease named schistosomiasis. It originates from Schistosoma worms.

When freshwater snails infected with these parasites release larvae, those larvae can penetrate the skin of humans who come into contact with the water.

Once the larvae invade a human host, they mature into adult worms that live in the blood vessels. The female worms lay eggs, some of which the body excretes through urine or feces, and some remain in the body.

It’s these eggs that can cause inflammation, tissue damage, and bleeding when they lodge in the bladder or intestine.

The presence of blood in urine, or hematuria, became a characteristic symptom among many Egyptian men. This sign of schistosomiasis was the source of the “male menstruation” confusion.

The disease not only caused physical distress but also carried a significant cultural and psychological burden given the societal perceptions of the symptoms.

French Soldiers and Schistosomiasis

In the late 18th century, under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte, French ambitions extended beyond Europe, aiming to challenge the British Empire’s growing dominance.

The French campaign in Egypt, which began in 1798, was a strategic endeavor to disrupt British trade routes to India and spread revolutionary ideals. Napoleon, with an army of approximately 35,000 soldiers, invaded Egypt, capturing Alexandria and later Cairo.

This expedition was not purely military; it also included scholars and scientists who studied the ancient and contemporary culture of Egypt. Their presence led to significant discoveries, including the famed Rosetta Stone.

However, while the campaign had initial successes, it faced challenges, such as an encounter with schistosomiasis.

While the local Egyptians bore the “menstruating men” moniker, the French soldiers were not immune. Many who waded in the Nile for bathing or other activities also contracted the disease. However, the term likely stuck more with the Egyptians due to pre-existing observations.

Unraveling the Mystery of Menstruating Men

It took some time before medical professionals connected the dots. The visible blood in urine, a clear symptom of a severe schistosomiasis infection, was initially misunderstood. (However, both men and women suffered from this symptom.)

Eventually, with advancements in medical knowledge and further studies in parasitology, the real nature of the disease became apparent. Scientists and doctors recognized that the “male menstruation” was actually a manifestation of schistosomiasis.

Modern medicine offers effective treatments for schistosomiasis, primarily using the drug praziquantel. Efforts to control the disease also focus on reducing the population of infected snails and improving sanitation to prevent contamination of freshwater sources. Education campaigns aim to reduce human contact with infested water.

Today, the disease remains endemic in many parts of Africa, including Egypt, but global health initiatives strive to reduce its impact.

Recognizing the history and myths surrounding schistosomiasis can help in understanding its cultural implications and the importance of continued efforts to combat it.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “History of schistosomiasis (bilharziasis) in humans: from Egyptian medical papyri to molecular biology on mummies” — Pathogens and Global Health

WTF Fun Fact 13495 – Haunted House Carbon Monoxide Theory

The haunted house carbon monoxide theory takes a little bit of the ghoulishness out of Halloween. But it its place is something much scarier. Those ghosts might be a sign that you’re being poisoned!

Now, we’re not talking about the haunted houses that you go to for Halloween fun. We’re talking about people who actually feel and hear and see ghosts that they think are coming from beyond the grave.

What’s the Haunted House Carbon Monoxide Theory?

There’s a saying: “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” Yet, when it comes to stories of haunted houses, the supernatural often takes precedence over the logical.

Such tales have captivated our imagination for centuries, with eerie apparitions, whispered voices, and otherworldly sensations. But could there be a more down-to-earth explanation for these ghostly experiences?

Enter carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause a wide range of health problems and even death when inhaled in large amounts. It affects the body by preventing oxygen from entering cells and tissues, leading to a condition called hypoxia.

The Unusual Cases of “Hauntings”

There’s been a growing awareness of how carbon monoxide poisoning can cause symptoms eerily similar to those described in paranormal encounters.

Take the example from an American Journal of Ophthalmology report from 1921. A family started seeing apparitions and experiencing a constant sensation of being watched. The children lost interest in play, became ill, and the father even witnessed a mysterious woman in black. The mother, too, had her own harrowing encounters. (This example is cited in IFL Science, cited below).

It wasn’t until the father’s brother suggested a more rational cause that the mystery was solved: carbon monoxide poisoning, originating from a broken furnace.

Writer Carrie Poppy described an unnerving presence in her house, complete with auditory hallucinations and a peculiar pressure on her chest to to NPR (via IFL Science). She felt watched and perceived an ominous “whoosh” sound. To her, this was no mere haunting; she believed a demon occupied her home.

The distress became so overwhelming that she found herself in tears nightly. However, a group of skeptical ghost hunters steered her towards a more plausible explanation: carbon monoxide. And sure enough, a gas leak was identified as the root cause.

Haunted Houses and Carbon Monoxide: A Tale Of Ghosts and Gas Lamps?

There’s an intriguing theory that the Victorian era, known for its plethora of ghost stories and an intense fascination with the supernatural, might have had a carbon monoxide connection.

Toxicologist Albert Donnay suggests that carbon monoxide and other toxins could be responsible for a large number of these hauntings.

The Victorians, with their gas lamps and toxic wallpaper, could have inadvertently been subjecting themselves to low doses of poison, leading to hallucinations and the perception of hauntings.

A Logical Explanation in a Paranormal World

While it’s true that not every ghostly encounter can be chalked up to carbon monoxide — some might be hoaxes, products of sleep paralysis, or even crafty hotel managers attempting to boost business — it’s essential to consider the possibility. Often, the answers we seek lie not in the realm of the otherworldly, but in the tangible world around us.

In essence, if you believe you’ve encountered a spectral presence or feel like something’s not quite right in your home, it might not be a ghostly visitor. Instead, it could be a silent and deadly gas.

So, before calling in the paranormal investigators, IFL Science writer Andrew Felton suggests you ring up a technician to inspect your home’s heating system. Your “haunting” might just be a malfunctioning boiler or furnace.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “An Awful Lot Of Hauntings Can Be Attributed To Carbon Monoxide Poisoning” — IFL Science

WTF Fun Fact 13492 – Information Seeking Behavior

Normally, when we think of smartphone addiction, we think of video games or social media, but information-seeking behavior, such as constantly scrolling through the news, can be hazardous to your health as well.

In our digital age, many people often hear notifications, see never-ending news feeds, and feel the pull to browse news apps daily. This behavior ties into our brain chemistry. Dopamine, a key neurotransmitter, drives our desire to seek information and rewards.

The Role of Dopamine in Information-Seeking Behavior

People often call dopamine the “feel-good” chemical. But it’s better to think of it as a messenger for reward-seeking, motivation, and pleasure. When we experience something pleasurable, our brain releases dopamine. This makes us want to repeat that action.

In the past, dopamine helped us survive. For instance, when our ancestors found food or water, a dopamine rush would push them to keep searching for these essentials.

Why We Seek Information

As societies evolved, so did our dopamine triggers. Now, our brain doesn’t only release dopamine for physical rewards but also for intangible ones like information. Discovering new information gives our brain a dopamine boost. Historically, this made sense. Early humans needed new knowledge for survival, like learning about potential dangers.

Today, each piece of news or an article can trigger dopamine, making us crave more. It’s like how we yearn for food or other activities that make us feel good.

Smartphones: Dopamine Machines

Smartphones and apps capitalize on our dopamine system. Every swipe or notification can be a dopamine rush. The element of surprise—whether the next swipe reveals a meme, a news update, or a message—boosts our dopamine even more.

This unpredictability mirrors slot machines. You never know when you’ll hit the jackpot, making you play more. Likewise, not knowing what the next notification holds keeps us glued to our screens.

However, too much dopamine has its downsides. Over time, frequent dopamine hits from constant scrolling can dull our response. Like how drug users need more drugs over time, we might need more screen time or new information for the same dopamine kick.

This never-ending search for information can overload us. We might struggle to understand or remember what we read. We can even feel mentally exhausted.

Balancing Out Information Seeking Behavior

Knowing dopamine’s role in our online habits can help us use tech wisely. Here’s how:

  • Set Limits: Designate times for browsing news or social media. This reduces the impulse to always check for news.
  • Take Digital Breaks: Stepping away from screens occasionally can help reset our brain’s dopamine response.
  • Choose Wisely: Don’t just scroll. Engage deeply with a few key topics.
  • Control Notifications: Fewer non-urgent notifications mean fewer urges to check your device.

Our relationship with dopamine and information seeking shines a light on our tech habits. Technology offers us endless information, but understanding the dopamine effect helps us use it wisely. By realizing how our brains work in this digital era, we can enjoy tech without letting it control us.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Dopamine Seeking-Reward Loop” — Psychology Today

WTF Fun Fact 13491 – Loneliness Kills

We can all think of a long list of stuff that’s bad for our health – but did you know loneliness kills as well?

Loneliness Kills in the Age of Connectivity

The dangers of smoking have been widely acknowledged and documented for years. From lung cancer to heart diseases, the repercussions of this habit are severe. Yet, there’s another rising health concern that many might not associate with physical harm: loneliness. Recent studies are revealing that the health risks of prolonged isolation might be as detrimental as smoking.

Ironically, we live in an era termed the “age of connectivity.” Technology has bridged continents, enabling face-to-face conversations without the need for physical proximity. Yet, as we increasingly immerse ourselves in the digital world, it seems we’re drifting apart in the real one. This paradox is contributing to what experts now call an “epidemic of loneliness.”

Loneliness vs. Being Alone

It’s vital to understand that loneliness and being alone aren’t synonymous. One can feel lonely in a crowded room, while another might cherish solitude without feeling isolated. Loneliness is the subjective feeling of being isolated, regardless of the actual social situation.

Loneliness does not merely affect mental well-being; it has severe physical repercussions. Just like smoking, prolonged feelings of isolation can lead to an array of health complications:

  1. Cardiovascular Issues: Loneliness can increase the risk of heart diseases. A lack of social connection has been found to be a significant factor in heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events.
  2. Reduced Immune Function: Chronic loneliness might diminish the immune system’s efficiency, making individuals more susceptible to illnesses.
  3. Higher Blood Pressure: There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that lonely individuals might have higher blood pressure than their more socially-connected counterparts.
  4. Shortened Life Expectancy: Perhaps the most alarming revelation is that loneliness can shorten one’s lifespan. It’s on par with other well-established risk factors like obesity and smoking.

The Role of Dopamine

The human brain operates on rewards. Dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter, plays a crucial role in this. When we engage in social interactions, our brain rewards us with dopamine. This encourages us to seek more interactions, fostering bonds and relationships.

When isolated, our dopamine levels can plummet. This can initiate a vicious cycle where the lack of dopamine makes us less inclined to seek out interactions, further exacerbating feelings of loneliness. The pleasure we derive from screens, though momentarily boosting dopamine, lacks the depth and warmth of genuine human connection, often leaving us feeling emptier.

The Modern Loneliness Epidemic

A report by Cigna, a global health service company, emphasized the modern loneliness epidemic, especially in the United States. The findings suggest that most Americans are classified as lonely. Younger generations seem to be at higher risk, which is surprising given their tech-savviness and online connectivity.

Factors contributing to this epidemic include increased screen time, decreased face-to-face social interactions, and the cultural shift towards individualism. The structure of modern life, where both family units and communities are less tight-knit than in previous generations, further fuels the crisis.

Tips for Combatting Loneliness

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Recognizing loneliness as a genuine health concern is the first step in addressing it. Here are some strategies to combat this silent epidemic:

  1. Community Engagement: Engage in community activities. Joining clubs, organizations, or even group fitness classes can foster new connections.
  2. Digital Detox: Allocate specific times in the day to disconnect from digital devices. Use this time to engage in hobbies, read, or take nature walks.
  3. Seek Professional Help: Just as one would consult a doctor for a persistent cough, seeking therapy for chronic loneliness is vital.
  4. Volunteer: Volunteering can provide a dual benefit. It can reduce feelings of isolation while giving individuals a sense of purpose.
  5. Pet Companionship: Animals, especially dogs and cats, can offer comfort and reduce feelings of isolation.
  6. Establish a Routine: Having a daily routine can provide structure, reducing feelings of aimlessness, which can compound loneliness.

Loneliness Kills: Don’t Let It Ruin Your Life

In an age where we can reach out to someone thousands of miles away with a click, it’s paradoxical to witness a surge in loneliness. Recognizing and understanding its profound effects on our physical and mental health is crucial. As with all health risks, prevention and early intervention are key. We must prioritize genuine human connections, value our well-being, and remember that our health encompasses not just our bodies, but our minds and souls as well.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Loneliness Is as Lethal As Smoking 15 Cigarettes Per Day. Here’s What You Can Do About It” — Inc.

WTF Fun Fact 13485 – People Who Read Live Longer

In 2016, Yale researcher first published a study that found a connection between longevity and reading – in other words, people who read live longer. It’s a correlation, but there’s no clear causation (that is, there’s no proof that reading is precisely what adds years to your life). Still, it felt validating for those of us who love the written word. And even better, it’s a free activity (if you have access to a library) that’s available to lots of people!

So, Do People Who Read Live Longer?

In an increasingly digitized world, it might be easy to dismiss reading as a leisurely pastime of bygone eras. Yet, plenty of people still do it. So, researchers from Yale University’s School of Public Health decided to expore the benefits of reading to try and understand whether engaging in this mental exercise could have real, tangible effects on longevity.

The study analyzed data from 3,635 individuals aged 50 and above. It divided them into three groups.
1) those who didn’t read books
2) those who read for up to three and a half hours a week,
3) and those who read more than that.

The results? Book readers, regardless of gender, wealth, education, or health, had a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over a 12-year period compared to non-book readers!

Even reading less than 3.5 hours per week benefitted. Reading came with a significant survival advantage over those who didn’t read at all.

Why Does Reading Enhance Longevity?

The exact mechanisms that would explain why people who read live longer are still being explored. But the hypothesis is as fascinating as the result itself.

Reading books, particularly those with complex narratives, demands cognitive engagement and promotes empathetic understanding and emotional intelligence. This intellectual stimulation boosts brain power, much like how physical exercise strengthens the body.

Reading can also provide a healthy form of escapism, reducing stress, and promoting better mental health. This “workout” for the mind might increase resilience against age-related cognitive decline and diseases, leading to an overall longer lifespan.

Not All Reading Is Equal

While all reading is beneficial, the study found that reading books, as opposed to magazines or newspapers, provided a larger survival advantage. This could be because books involve more immersive and cognitive processes, like the use of imagination and critical thinking. They also encourage the reader to make connections between different plot elements spread out over hundreds of pages, creating a greater neural stimulus.

We know what you’re wondering. We’re wondering about it too. What about reading online or on an e-reader? And researchers aren’t sure. But older research found that people who read physical books were more engaged and remembered more plot points. However, we need more research – and those results wouldn’t apply to everyone anyway.

Further research is needed to solidify the connection and understand the exact mechanisms behind why people who read live longer. For instance, how different genres might impact longevity is still an open question. Does a suspense thriller provide the same benefit as a heartfelt romance?

And, of course, as digital reading becomes more popular, future research will need to explore whether reading eBooks – or even listening to audiobooks – provides the same benefits as “traditional reading.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “People who read live longer than those who don’t, Yale researchers say” — Big Think