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Reading in the second half of life. What correlations are there with aspects of quality of life and health?

This DZA Aktuell is intended to provide an initial contribution on book reading and possible positive correlations with health-related aspects in the second half of life. In addition to differentiations according to age, gender and educational status, correlations between the volume of reading and emotional well-being (positive affect), subjective health and cognitive performance are presented.

Stefanie Hartmann, Lisa Klasen, Nadja Keller, & Oliver Huxhold (2023). Reading books in the second half of life: What correlations are there with aspects of quality of life and health? [DZA Aktuell 04/2023]. Berlin: German Centre of Gerontology.

Key messages:

  • The average number of books read has remained largely stable over the last 20 years. People between the ages of 46 and 85 read an average of eight to nine books a year between 2008 and 2021, compared to just seven in 2002.
  • Around two-fifths of people in the second half of life are avid readers, reading at least 6 books a year. A good quarter of all respondents, on the other hand, do not read at all.
  • A differentiation by education and gender clearly shows that highly educated people and women are particularly likely to be avid readers. In 2021, around half belonged to the group of avid readers, but also a good quarter of respondents with a low level of education. However, reading has nothing to do with age. All age groups read roughly the same amount.
  • Over 85 per cent of avid readers reported positive feelings. Among non-readers, this proportion was significantly lower at 72 per cent to 79 per cent.
  • Almost two thirds of avid readers rate their health as good or very good. Among non-readers, on the other hand, there are roughly as many people with poor as good subjective health.
  • In the cognition test conducted in 2017, 96 per cent of avid readers scored well. This was only the case for around 89 per cent of non-readers


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