Investigating the science on the benefits of reading for National Read a Book Day (6th September 2022)
Today is National Read a Book Day, an annual awareness day to encourage people to take a break and start reading. This day is not about finishing a book from cover to cover in 24 hours (even though we won’t mind if you do), but about spending at least a few minutes of the day reading. For this reason, we thought we’d try to understand – from a scientific perspective – why reading is good for you and how it can help improve your overall health. Here’s 7 reasons:
# 1: Increased brain strength
Using MRI scans, researchers found that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. These get stronger and more complex as your reading ability improves. In addition, the brain appears to be increasingly stimulated as the tension within a story builds up. This positive effect lasts for days after the reading period.
# 2: Increased ability to empathise
Reading literary fiction long-term (stories exploring the inner lives of characters) contributes to an enhanced ability to understand feelings and beliefs of others, an effect called “theory of mind”, i.e. a skillset essential for building, navigating, and maintaining social relationships.
# 3: Reduces stress
A 2009 piece of research measuring the effects of yoga, humour and reading on stress levels of science students found that 30 minutes of daily reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humour. A routine that’s easy to incorporate into everyone’s daily schedule, don’t you think?
# 4: Helps alleviate depression symptoms
People with depression often feel isolated and estranged from everyone else, a feeling books can help mitigate. Reading fiction allows to temporarily escape your own world and lose yourself in the imagined experiences of the characters. Nonfiction, self-help books could also be useful to learn strategies to manage depression symptoms.
# 5: Prepares you for a good night’s rest
Reading before going to sleep can help you relax significantly and should be part of a good sleep routine. It is advisable to choose a print book over a screen, since the light could keep you awake and lead to other unwanted health outcomes. If you have trouble falling asleep, you should consider reading somewhere other than the bedroom.
# 6: Helps prevent age-related cognitive decline & potentially help you live longer
Studies show that seniors who read and solve math problems daily maintain and improve their cognitive functioning. Those who have engaged in mentally stimulating activities all their lives are less likely to develop the lesions found in the brains of people with dementia. Research conducted on a sample of over 3,500 people also showed that those who read books survived around 2 years longer than those who didn’t. People who read over 3.5 hours a week are 23% more likely to live longer.
# 7: And remember: flipping pages is good for you!
Studies have shown repeatedly that people who read print books score higher on comprehension tests and remember more of what they read than people who read the same material in a digital form. That may be, in part, because people tend to read print slower than they read digital content.
Disclaimer: The above article is for informative and entertainment purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.
- Benefits of Reading Books: How It Can Positively Affect Your Life. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-reading-books
- Why Should You Read Every Day: Scientific Benefits of Reading Books. Available at: https://www.scientificworldinfo.com/2021/03/why-you-should-read-every-day.html
- The science-based benefits of reading. Available at: https://nesslabs.com/reading-benefits