How Reading May Help Sharpen Your Thinking Skills

A man and woman reading a book together outside
PeopleImages/Getty Images

Your friend who’s always got her head in a book may be on to something. Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health sourced data from the long-running Health and Retirement Study at the University of Michigan (UM) and discovered that bookworms had better memories and mental abilities than nonreaders. Those who read for about 30 minutes a day also lowered their overall risk of death by 20 percent.

To learn more, check out this article on memory: Computers, Crafts, Games, Social Activities May Help Protect Memory

In the Yale-UM study, more than 3,600 people 50 years and older were asked about their reading and other habits and given baseline cognition tests. Researchers checked in with the group every two years for about a decade and found avid book readers scored higher on tests measuring memory and mental status. Literary fiction (think Harper Lee) has the most benefits. Newspapers, magazines, popular fiction (think Tom Clancy and Gillian Flynn) and nonfiction books don’t have as strong an influence on the brain.

What’s more, novels that emphasize strong characters and their life experiences (as opposed to a juicy plotline) may help readers become more empathetic and increase their emotional intelligence — both of which can help your social life.

Learn more about Why Reading Is Great for Your Brain

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

Search AARP Blogs