Put down your phone: how reading a good book can benefit your health – Evening Standard

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Stressed? Read a book
ach New Year’s Day, people around the UK tell themselves that this will be the year they will read more books.
In fact, ‘reading more books’ was the fifth most common New Year’s resolution this year according to a poll. But in reality, finding the time to read can be tough with work, social commitments, exercise, cooking and sleeping.
But, making time to get stuck into a good novel is imperative as reading can be extremely beneficial for your health.
Research has found that people who read regularly report lower levels of stress and depression with stronger feelings of relaxation, compared to watching TV or technology-intensive activities (read: scrolling through Instagram).
Sue Wilkinson MBE, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency, told the Standard: “The healing effects of a good book may not seem like a very revolutionary idea, but many people are still completely unaware of the tangible impact that the proven power of reading has on their health.
“In fact, reading was proved to be 68 per cent better at reducing stress levels than listening to music, 100 per cent more effective than drinking a cup of tea, 300 per cent better than going for a walk and 700 per cent more than playing video games.”
Reading doesn’t only affect your mental health but can also affect physical health as well. Below are several other health benefits reading can have.
Researchers from Yale University School of Public Health found that adults who read for three and a half hours per week or more are expected to have a longer lifespan than those who do not read books. This is because reading can increase connectivity between brain cells, which can lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases which can shorten a lifespan.
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Hits & Misses by Simon Rich
In Pursuit of Civility by Keith Thomas
The Complete Poems by Emily Dickinson
The Midnight Line by Lee Child
Bloody January by Alan Parks
How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
Robicheaux by James Lee Burke
London Rules by Mick Herron
The Krull House by Georges Simenon
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Compulsory Games by Robert Aickman
Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before it is too Late? by Mark Cocker
Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm
The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker
The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story by Christie Watson
The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay
To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death by Mark O’Connell
Reading can also slow cognitive decline to help prevent illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease. A 2013 study by researchers at Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago, US found that reading could help to slow down dementia.
Their research looked at 295 adults over the age of 89 and analysed their brains after they had passed away. They found that those who engaged in reading were less likely to show physical evidence of dementia.
A good night’s sleep is imperative to our overall health and reading can help you have a more restful sleep. A recent study by the University of Sussex found that reading before you go to sleep can reduce stress levels by as much as 68 per cent. Dr David Lewis, head researcher of the study found that it takes just six minutes of reading to significantly relax your body and mind. So pick up a book before bed – even just for a few minutes – and enjoy a more relaxing sleep.
Developing a daily reading habit can be beneficial for your health – both mentally and physically – all you need to do is put down the phone and pick up a novel.