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

WTF Fun Fact 13223 – The Benefits of Reading Physical Books

Reading is generally good for you, no matter how you do it (unless you’re falling down a rabbithole of conspiracy theories). And your body likes reading in any form. Still, research shows that the benefits of reading physical books is higher than reading on a screen.

What are the benefits of reading physical books?

Reading physical books has numerous benefits. For starters, it helps improve concentration and information retention. Physical books require more focus and concentration than digital books, as there are fewer distractions. This helps to improve memory retention and recall, especially for complex information.

Research suggests that reading online results in lower understanding and less critical reflection. That can even be the case when parents read to children from an ebook. But that’s largely because screens don’t help them enhance elements of the story that would make a book more engaging.

Learning is just better when it’s done on paper.

Physical books are also better for eye health. Digital screens emit blue light, which has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns and cause eye strain.

A paper book in your hands also helps promote relaxation (though we’ve certainly felt the relaxation from reading an ebook!). But it turns out physical books can help to reduce stress and anxiety. The act of holding a book and turning its pages has a calming effect, and the absence of screens and digital distractions can provide a sense of peace.

Paper books also encourage us to unplug. They provide a break from technology and encourage people to unplug and disconnect from their screens. This is especially important in today’s digital world, where people are constantly bombarded with information and distractions.

Love building a library

While ebooks can be very convenient for travel or people with small apartments who don’t have places to store books, it turns out that collecting physical books can be a source of pride and personal fulfillment. A personal library of physical books is a tangible representation of one’s interests and reading history, which can be enjoyed and shared with others. It makes people feel good about their reading habits.

Believe it or not, physical books are more environmentally friendly in some ways. They do not require any batteries, electricity, or other power sources. They are also made from natural materials, such as paper, making them a more sustainable option than digital books, which rely on electronic devices that contribute to electronic waste.

The benefits of reading physical books also help independent bookstores. And purchasing physical books from independent bookstores supports local communities and small businesses, helping to preserve the cultural heritage of local neighborhoods.

For the love of books

If you love books, you’re not alone. People still prefer and buy more physical books than ebooks. And considering how many devices we all own, that’s pretty impressive.

In an era where convenience rules, there’s still something so compelling about holding a physical book that ebooks have never been able to take the lion’s share of the book market.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Reading on-screen vs reading in print: What’s the difference for learning?” — National Library of New Zealand

WTF Fun Fact 13198 – Turkey’s Library of Books Thrown Away

Garbage collectors in Turkey have curated their own library from books thrown away by residents. The books were destined for landfills, but around 6,000 books now sit on shelves waiting to be re-read by the public.

Reusing books thrown away

The trash collectors kept finding books and eventually found a place to put them. It’s an old brick building outside of Ankara that used to house a factory. Its long shape makes it ideal for the long bookshelves that make libraries so fun to browse.

In the beginning, the trash collectors would stash the books and lend them to friends. But as more people heard about it and the number of books grew, they searched for a more sustainable option. The local municipality, Çankaya, found money in the budget to open a library with these books.

We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books. And when everyone supported it, this project happened,” the mayor of Çankaya, Alper Tasdelen, told CNN (cited below).

Turkey doesn’t have a public library system, so it’s up to each region to build, curate, and staff a library themselves.

A new collection and a public good

The library full of books thrown away has a full-time staff member. They’ve even converted a garbage truck into a mobile library/donation truck!

The public has started donating books to the library instead of throwing them away to rot in landfills. You’ll also find magazines and other types of reading materials in the library.

There are some other items found in the trash that have made their way to the library, such as furniture and even games. Some of the space acts as a social center for people in the town.

Talk about turning trash into treasure!

Check below for a video about these garbage collectors’ awesome efforts!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Garbage collectors open library with abandoned books” — CNN

WTF Fun Fact 13184 – People in India Read the Most

People in India spend 10 hours and 42 minutes a week reading, the most of any country on Earth. The U.S. makes up about 30% of the world’s book-buying population. But Americans don’t crack the top 5 for the time spent reading metric.

Where do most readers live? People in India read the most

India, Thailand, China, Phillippines, and Egypt round out the top 5 for the most time spent reading per person, on average, per week.

Data collected between 2017 and 2022 showed that:

  • India ranks first, with people spending 10 hours and 42 minutes reading per week (556.4 hours per year).
  • Thailand ranks second with weekly totals averaging 9 hours and 24 minutes (488.8 hours per year).
  • China readers average 8 hours a week (or 416 hours per year).
  • Those in the Philippines tend to read 7 hours and 36 minutes per week (395.2 per year.)
  • And Egyptians read for 7 hours and 30 minutes per week (or 390 minutes per year).

Books and their readers

Data collected between 2011 and 2020 shows that Americans love buying books (and they do read them, so it’s not just book hoarding). And most Americans do read books.

The World Population Review compiled numbers from various research studies and showed that while people in India read the most (in terms of hours spent reading):

Altogether, Americans read 275,232 books per year and makeup 30% of the market share of book buyers. A Pew Research Center study published in 2016 found that 72% of Americans had read a book the preceding year, a number that rose to 75% in 2022. But that rise was almost certainly due to the pandemic keeping people at home. In 2016 Americans read an average of 12 books a year (though 50% of the nation reads 4 or fewer, so we’re depending on some people to read a lot of books to make us look good). But we still tend to read more physical books than e-books, even though the e-book trend is growing in the U.S.

In other countries:

  • China reads 208,418 books on average per year (10% of all books purchased).
  • The United Kingdom reads about 188,000 books every year, and book sales have reached about 212 million!)
  • Japan makes up 7% of the market share for book buyers, and the Japanese read an average of 139,078 books per year. This makes up about 7% of the total market share.

What are the most popular books in the world? Well, you can probably guess – it’s the Holy Bible and the Holy Qu’ran. Next in line come The Harry Potter Series, The Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, and Lord of the Rings. Eclectic!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Average Books Read Per Year by Country 2023” — World Population Review

WTF Fun Fact 12971 – Tsundoku

Do you love books? Do you buy them to display in your home? Plenty of us do! But do you actually read them all? Probably not. In this case, you may be interested to know there’s a word for that – at least a Japanese one. Tsundoku is a person who engages in collecting a lot of unread books.

But it’s not an insult. Book lovers just really like to be around books!

Does this sound like you?

The BBC (cited below) interviewed Prof Andrew Gerstle from the University of London about the phenomenon and the roots of the word in 2018.

“He explained to the BBC the term might be older than you think – it can be found in print as early as 1879, meaning it was likely in use before that. The word ‘doku’ can be used as a verb to mean ‘reading.; According to Prof Gerstle, the ‘tsun’ in ‘tsundoku’ originates in ‘tsumu’ – a word meaning ‘to pile up.'” (Like a tsunami of books?!)

The literal meaning of “tsundoku” is buying reading material and piling it up.

The first use of the phrase has been traced to a piece of satirical writing by writer Mori Senzo from 1870, who described a teacher who had lots of books he didn’t read.

“Curing” Tsundoku

Just because there’s a word for it doesn’t mean it’s problematic behavior. Books can be great conversation starters even when they’re sitting on shelves. They even serve as great decor.

Of course, spending money on something that goes unused can spell trouble for some people.

If you’re interested in “curing” yourself of this habit, you can always limit yourself to books that you’re immediately interested in reading, limit the amount of time a book sits in a pile before you read it or give it away, or give yourself a specific number of books you’re allowed to buy in a given period of time. And if you simply don’t have the space, you can always donate your books to someone else with tsundoku.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Tsundoku: The art of buying books and never reading them” — BBC