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Why Reading is Good For Your Mental Health

Please be advised that this article contains references to mental health and mental health difficulties which may be upsetting for some readers - if you or anyone you know are struggling at this time, please don't hesitate to contact someone who can help.

Reading has always been a classic pastime, but now, more than ever, it has proved to have a positive affect on our mental health.

a woman reading a book in front of a setting sun window.

Mental health difficulties

More and more in the modern social environment, mental health awareness and respect has become a key topic that many have highlighted and begun to bring to the forefront of discussion. But have you ever wondered why? Why is it so important to share and acknowledge this, often stigmatised, yet widely felt issue?

  • 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England - NHS

  • Among 17 -19 year olds, the proportion with a probable mental health disorder increased from 17.4% in 2021 to 25.7% in 2022 - NHS

  • over 50% of LGBTQIA+ people have experienced depression, and 3 in 5 had experienced anxiety - Stonewall

Now more than ever, mental health is an important topic that needs to be discussed and recognised, but what can we do to help ourselves and each other in a positive direction?

Rise of book social media

Owing to the rise in social media and short-form content over the last 5 years, book social media has also seen a significant rise in content, more significantly in the areas of Booktook, Bookstagram and Booktube.

Especially in the area of Booktok, whose influence on the popularity of newly released books has seen established companies such as Waterstones set up particular areas specifically for Booktok recommendations.

But, despite the recognised negative effect of social media on mental health, and the difficulty some have with disconnecting from the internet, the rise of reading in the popular sphere can also promote the positive effects of reading on mental health and get more people reading.

Studies of positive impact of books

Over the years there has been many studies around the effect of reading on mental health, with much of them discovering it: reduces stress, increases empathy and lowers overall heart rate.

In 2009, a study conducted by the University of Sussex found that 30 minutes of yoga, humour and reading all reduced stress to a similar level, so why choose reading?

Psychology today presented a piece exploring the theory of 'bibliotherapy' where reading alone and as part of a group helped reduce depressive symptoms in mild to moderately depressed adults over a 3 year period, a crucial study of the positive impact of reading and how it can help metal health difficulties.

Further studies also explained how during the recent lockdown and global pandemic, 41% of uk adults read more, almost doubling their time spent reading, using it as a way to escape the realities of the difficult time.

How does reading make us feel?

Although scientific studies can try and measure the impact that reading has on our mental health, it is also important to read what real people feel and say about the effect it has on us.

A BBC article published in 2019 explored the discussion of the therapeutic value of reading at Hay Festival, an annual literature festival held each year in Wales. The discussion found that reading allowed many to become involved in the story, where you are inventing the visuals yourself as you read.

Getting lost in a great book is not only a good way to pass time without a screen, but also great for personal development, increasing reader empthy, social skills and interpersonal understandings also known as Theory of Mind.

Personally, reading has always been a calming escape from the world, losing yourself in the adventures of middle earth, or enraptured by the crimes and exploits of Sherlock Holmes.

Reading can be fundamental for some people to deal with mental health difficulties, but ultimately, the best thing for anyone is what makes them feel comfortable, safe and calm.


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