At the end of the eight weeks, participants were assessed for different cognitive skills. The reading group showed a significant improvement in their working and episodic memory
Slow Down Mental Decline
While cognitive decline is a normal part of the aging process, one longitudinal study published by International Psychogeriatrics in 2020 provides evidence that independent reading can reduce one’s risk of cognitive decline later in life — no matter their educational background or reading level. Anyone can benefit from reading, even if that means reading once weekly.
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Helps Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Reading may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study conducted by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
The study, which included 294 older adults, required participants to take several memory tests and answer questionnaires about their reading and writing habits and how often they visited the library, if at all. The participants were asked to complete these tasks every year.
After a study participant passed on, their brain was examined for physical signs of dementia. Researchers discovered that people who participated in mentally challenging activities more often had a slower rate of decline in memory and fewer physical signs of dementia than those who did not engage in these activities — reading lowered their risk and further development of dementia.
What’s more? Reading can help to reduce anxiety too. According to researchers at the University of Toronto, people who read frequently are less likely to make impulsive decisions. This discovery suggests that readers can process information more efficiently and therefore are more prepared for life’s uncertainties.
The study consisted of 3,635 participants who were 50 years old or older and spanned 12 years. Each participant was asked about their reading habits. By the end of the study, researchers found that people who read for more than three and a half hours per week lived 23 months longer than those who read less or not at all.
The Bottom Line
While reading has many benefits, including improving cognitive function and reducing stress, some adults may face a few challenges when diving into a good book (e.g., vision loss). Fortunately, many publishers, bookstores, and libraries offer large-print books. Alternatively, e-readers feature font settings that allow users to enlarge the font to a readable size.
Whether you’re an avid reader or a beginner, it’s never too late to pick up a book, magazine, or newspaper and start reading and reaping the benefits.