> Skip to content

Article  •  5 April 2018

 

A book a day

Six health benefits of reading.

Reading can provide hours of entertainment and pleasure, impart knowledge, expand vocabulary and give insight into unknown experiences. Additionally, research has shown that it has a variety of physical, mental and emotional health benefits. If you need another excuse to pick up a book, here are six ways reading can benefit your health.
 

Improve brain function

Neuroscientists at Emory University in America conducted a study and discovered that reading a novel can improve brain function on a variety of levels. The study showed that when we read and imagine the settings, sounds, smells and tastes described on the page, the areas within the brain that process these experiences in real life are activated, creating new neural pathways.1 So next time you’re indulging in an armchair adventure with a great book, you could technically claim you’re working out – your brain, that is.
 

Increase longevity and brain health in old age

Researchers at Yale University School of Public Health found that, ‘reading books tends to involve two cognitive processes that could create a survival advantage.’ According to their results ‘a 20% reduction in mortality was observed for those who read books, compared to those who did not read books.’2 And the longer you live, the more time you have to get through your to-be-read pile.

 

Reduce tension levels

A 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading for just six minutes can reduce tension levels by up to 68 per cent.3 Researchers studied a group of volunteers – raising their tension levels and heart rate through a range of tests and exercises – before they were then tested with a variety of traditional methods of relaxation. Reading was the most effective method according to cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis. The volunteers only needed to read silently for six minutes to ease tension in the muscles and slow down their heart rate. If ongoing stress is an issue take a look at these simple stress management tips.


Increase emotional intelligence & empathy

Numerous studies have shown that reading books can promote social perception and emotional intelligence.2 Studies have also found that when a person is reading fiction, they showed greater ability to empathize. Similar to the visualization of muscle memory in sports, reading fiction helps the reader use their imagination to put themselves in someone else's shoes.1 For books that’ll test your empathy, push your moral boundaries and ask ‘what would you do?’, take a look at this collection.
 

Improve sleep

While some scientists believe reading before bed can inhibit sleep due to heightened brain activity, researchers at Mayo Clinic recommend reading as part of a relaxing bedtime ritual that can help promote sound sleep.4 This, coupled with the tension-relieving benefits of reading, can vastly improve both the quality and quantity of your sleep. You may want to stay away from page-turning crime and thriller novels though – you could be up all night… 
 

Improve overall wellbeing

Researchers at Italy’s University of Turin published an analysis of ten studies of bibliotherapy: the use of books as therapy in the treatment of mental or psychological disorders. Their findings showed that participants in six of the studies saw significant improvements in their overall wellbeing for up to three years after partaking in a course of reading therapy.5 With that in mind, here are some books to help you achieve mindfulness and find happiness in the everyday.


 

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3868356/#s007title
2 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953616303689
3 Dr. David Lewis “Galaxy Stress Research,” Mindlab International, Sussex University (2009)
4 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167
5 https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/article/27/suppl_3/ckx186.244/4555858

 

More features

See all
Article
We’re giving away a one-of-a-kind Penguin bookcase

... and more (including $1000 cash and $500 worth of books)!

Article
Article
Cop and Robber Reading Group Questions

If your mum was a cop and your dad was a criminal who needed your help to commit a crime, would you do it to save him?

Article
5 key ways to re-establish control of your body and mind after trauma

Bessel Van der Kolk provides some key guidance on how to reclaim your life after trauma in his insightful book, The Body Keeps the Score.

Article
The greatest middle grade books of 2022

Gripping new stories for ages 8–12.

Article
QUIZ: Which Emily Henry book should you read?

If you're a fan of contemporary romance with humour and wit, you've probably heard of Emily Henry - find out which of her novels you should pick up with this handy quiz!

Article
Nicole Alexander details river-trade history that inspired new book

The Last Station introduces us to a once-prosperous family facing ruin and a paddle-steamer captain clinging to a dying world.

Article
QUIZ: How well do you know The Great Gatsby?

Celebrate the anniversary of The Great Gatsby by putting your knowledge to the test with our newest quiz!

Article
What We All Saw - Reading Group Questions

Four friends experience something supernatural, something terrifying, in the wood one summer.

Article
The book that gets teenagers reading

International bestselling author Karen M. McManus is known for her high school thrillers

Article
3 tips to help flatten your glucose curves

For most of us, energy peaks and troughs throughout the day are something we accept as part of life – but what if it didn’t have to be that way?

Article
Meet the family at the centre of our must-have whodunnit

The Cunninghams don't really get along, and every one of them has killed someone. Meet the family to help you find the culprit.

Looking for more articles?

See all articles