Reading for better wellbeing

Posted on November 25, 2014 by Brynna Gabrielson

HY Reading wellbeingIn a 2013 poll of 1,000 American adults it was found that 28% of respondents hadn't read a single book in the previous 12 months. A similar study conducted in the UK found that 4 million UK adults don't read for pleasure, and a quarter of UK adults picked up a book to read for pleasure less than twice in the previous 6 months1.

While reading may be seen as more of a pastime or hobby, studies have shown that reading can provide benefits to our health and wellbeing. So the next time it's a choice between the remote control or a good book, consider that reading does the following:

Improves mental wellbeing

More and more of us are dealing with daily issues of stress, with over 50% of respondents in a recent survey reporting that their levels of stress and anxiety are increasing2.  But if you're looking for a quick and helpful way to relax and de-stress, reading may just be the answer.  A 2009 study found that just six minutes of reading silently can reduce stress levels by up to 68% - making it a more effective form of stress relief than activities such as listening to music, having a cup of tea, or going for a walk3.  Another study has also shown that re-reading a favourite book can be a contributor to good mental health. The study found that those who opted to re-read a favourite book experienced heightened pleasure and awareness and benefited from growth and self-reflexivity4.

Makes you smarter

From childhood the ability to read affects us deeply. Various studies have shown the impact reading has on the development of our brains. The British Cohort study, which has been following the lives of 17,000 Britons born in the same week in 1970, have found multiple links between childhood reading and intelligence. In one example, 6,000 of the participants took part in cognitive tests at the age of 16. Results showed that those tested who had read frequently at the age of ten, and continued to read more than once a week at 16, had higher test results than those who read less.  High test scores weren't limited to just vocabulary and spelling, but also included mathematics5.  Further tests, when the cohort were 42, found that those who had read frequently at 10 continued to maintain higher vocabulary scores than those who hadn¿t read frequently as a child6.

Keeps your mind sharp

By 2015 there will be 850,000 people within the UK suffering from Alzheimer¿s and Dementia7 and this number is forecasted to keep growing. Research has shown that those who participate frequently in creative and cognitive activities, such as reading, throughout the course of their lives experienced a 32% reduction of cognitive decline8. Research also shows that for those who develop dementia and engage in stimulating cognitive activities can also shorten the worst part of the disease9.

Sources

1 http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/feb/14/4-million-uk-adults-never-read-books
2 http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/01/28/brits-stress-and-anxiety-poor-work-life-balance_n_4680590.html
3 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/5070874/Reading-can-help-reduce-stress.html
4 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturenews/9084394/Rereading-old-books-enhances-the-experience.html
5 http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/sep/16/reading-improves-childrens-brains
6 http://www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/news.aspx?itemid=3101&itemTitle=Long-term+vocabulary+benefits+from+%E2%80%98reading+for+pleasure%E2%80%99+in+childhood&sitesectionid=27&sitesectiontitle=News
7 http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementiauk
8 http://life.nationalpost.com/2013/07/04/memory-declines-much-slower-in-people-who-read-write-throughout-life-u-s-study/
9 http://healthland.time.com/2013/07/05/to-avoid-dementia-stay-mentally-active-throughout-lifetime/

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