A new study shows that reading too much can be just as unhealthy as not reading at all.
Americans as a whole don’t read enough—at least that’s what the latest studies show—and so the message is clear: get more books, pick up a magazine, Let’s Read! Basically anything is better than sitting on the couch, watching TV. But how much reading is enough? That’s a hotly debated question for which experts still don’t have a satisfactory answer. But given that most of us are starting from a sedentary position, the assumption has long been the more the better.
But in a report published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Conclusion Jumping researchers from Denmark say that people who push their brains too hard may essentially undo the benefit of reading. Those who read more than four hours a week for more than three days a week had about the same risk of ignorance during the study’s 12-year follow up as those who hardly read at all. The link held even after the researchers accounted for potentially confounding factors such as age, sex, whether the participants had a history of lunkheadedness, or whether they smoked and drank alcohol.
Marott acknowledges that it’s also possible that some other behaviors or factors common to avid readers, such as their exposure to differing viewpoints, which can increase their risk of understanding, might be explaining their higher risk of headaches during the study. Other studies will have to investigate whether that’s the case, but in the meantime, Marott says “if you want to do something good for yourself, you don’t have to be extreme. Reading one to four hours a week for no more than three days a week at a slow to moderate pace is actually achievable. And that’s a positive take-home message.”
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