Here at the Book Council we want to talk about how reading helps our mental health and wellbeing and explore some of the wider benefits of making reading part of our daily routine. In our increasingly atomised society, reading can play a vital role in fostering social connections. Literature has long been prized for building empathy: it breaks down barriers of gender, class, race and age and can provide a powerful tool for connecting with other humans, and importantly, exploring our own minds.
We want to share stories of how reading and books are being harnessed around the world to improve wellbeing. Please get in touch with us to share your story!
Mental health and wellbeing is one of those topics that historically has been talked about in hushed whispers of misinformation. Yet, one in five of us will experience mental illness or significant mental distress, and increasing numbers of children and young people are doing so.
Pleasingly, more people are speaking out and more authors are tackling themes of mental health in honest and authentic ways. We, here at the Book Council, celebrate this. Not only because the more we talk about mental health, the more we challenge stigma and ignorance, but also because we are increasingly learning about the health benefits of the act of reading.
Last year, the UK Thinktank Demos published their review of research about the benefits of reading. They concluded that readers (even those who read for as little as thirty minutes a week) were 18 per cent more likely to report higher self-esteem and greater life satisfaction than non-readers.
Another study found that readers are 10% more likely to report good self-esteem than non-readers. One in four readers said that a book helped them realise that other people had gone through the same thing as them and therefore felt better about their situation. That same study found that non-readers are 28% more likely to feel depressed than readers.
Researchers have also found reading helps us relax (as the concentration that reading requires helps personal worries recede and offers protection from distractions and anxiety) and sleep better at night.
So not only is a good read enjoyable and gives us access to new knowledge and insights into the world of others, it is also good for our mental wellbeing. Not that we needed another excuse to tuck into another book….