Comstock's magazine 1118 - November 2018 - Page 64

n LEADERSHIP I n 1779, during the Revolutionary War, there was a young THE WHY officer who spent his days in the midst of cannons, mus- “The benefits of reading are extensive,” says Debra Long, kets and bloodshed. At night, to relax, he did not play a psychologist who studies reading at UC Davis. “Literacy cards, throw dice or get drunk with his fellow soldiers. is associated with academic success, financial and mental He read books. Specifically, he devoured economic well-being, and health.” A 2016 study from Yale School of tomes like Malachy Postlethwayt’s Universal Dictionary of Public Health, for example, found that reading a book for 30 Trade and Commerce. minutes a day corresponds with a two-year longer lifespan. The young officer was Alexander Hamilton. From the (The researchers asked 3,635 adults over the age of 50 to fill time he was a child, Hamilton binged on books the way that out a questionnaire about their reading habits, and 12 years we binge on Netflix — even when they had no clear connec- later, checked back in. Fewer book readers had died, pro- tion to his “day job.” For example, his odd enthusiasm for viding them what the researches called a “survival advan- books on banking served him well years later when, as trea- tage.”) A 2009 study from the University of Sussex (commis- sury secretary, he helped create the nation’s financial blue- sioned by a company doing a book giveaway, but still) found print — without which that reading a book the U.S. may never was more effective at have grown into an lowering stress (a 68 economic powerhouse. percent reduction) Books fuel ideas. than taking a walk (42 Books nourish the percent), having a cof- soul. And on a more fee or tea (54 percent) prosaic level, yes, or playing video games books can even boost (21 percent). our careers. Warren Research conduct- Buffett once pointed ed by cognitive psy- to a stack of manuals chologist Keith Oat- and told an investment ley, of the University class at Columbia Uni- of Toronto, concluded versity, “Read 500 pag- that fiction in particu- es like this every day. lar can make us more - Debra Long, professor, That’s how knowledge empathetic and under- UC Davis Department of Psychology works. It builds up, standing. Oately refers like compound inter- to fiction as the mind’s est.” Bill Gates says he “flight simulator,” let- reads around 50 books ting us experience a year to “both learn other perspectives and new things and test my emotions. One of his understanding.” Other notable bookworms include Oprah experiments asked volunteers to match images of eyes with Winfrey and Elon Musk. emotional states like “joking,” “desire,” or “flustered” and The sales of physical books have actually ticked up in the found fiction readers better able to match the eyes to the past few years (up 1.9 percent in 2017 and 3.3 percent in 2016) expressions. while e-books have declined, yet the overarching trends I was hoping to find a study emphatically proving that show that people are reading less. Only one in five Ameri- reading books improves one’s IQ by at least 37 percent, cans say they regularly read “for personal interest,” accord- but alas, the neurological benefits are tricky to prove. “As ing to a 2018 survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A a reading researcher, I’m happy to promote the benefits of recent study from the Pew Research Center found that 24 reading,” says Long. “Unfortunately, there’s been no good percent of Americans have not read a single book in the past research on the link between reading and cognitive health.” year, up from 19 percent in 2011. The studies don’t reveal the Long explains that the “research is hard to do because there causes, but tellingly, the BLS survey found that the average are so many confounds”; people who read lots of books tend American watches 2.7 hours of television each day. to have a higher education level and socioeconomic status Here’s why we should read more, and how to do it. and better access to health care. “The benefits of reading are extensive. Literacy is associated with academic success, financial and mental well- being, and health. ” 64 | November 2018