It’s National Libraries Day and many of us across the country will be marking the occasion by paying a visit to our local library and enjoying a brilliant book.

If you thought that the only reason to have a good read was to transport yourself away to a world of imagination and escapism, think again. It turns out that being a bookworm is good for your mental health, according to a new report.

The investigation into the benefits of reading found that keen readers have higher levels of empathy for others, more well-rounded relationships, suffered less from depression and even lowered their chances of getting dementia later on in life. Since reading and mental health have been proven to be so closely connected, anxiety and depression will now be treated with a prescribed book by GPs.


The Study

The report was conducted by The Reading Agency, a charity dedicated to encouraging us all to read more. Researchers investigated 51 separate studies which had been published within the last 10 years, all of which looked into the impact of reading on mental health.

The overwhelming result of the research was that those who read frequently have higher levels of emotional wellbeing. In addition to this, avid readers were found to be more understanding of other’s cultures, ethnicities, political stances and class.


The Benefits of Reading

Many of us read for pleasure. This relaxing pastime has been shown over several studies to have very real emotional and social consequences. As well as enabling us to open our minds to other people and places and boosting intelligence, this recent research shows that reading and mental health are more intrinsically linked than we previously realised. Here are just a few of the ways that regular reading can improve mental health;

Banish Stress

These days, more than ever before, we are living fast-paced lifestyles filled with stress and distractions. It’s easy to see why so many of us are struggling to deal with anxiety, high-stress levels and panic attacks. Taking some quiet time out for yourself is an essential way to stay relaxed and researchers at the University of Sussex found that reading is the best way to do this. A study into the popular pastime found that even just six minutes of reading a day can be enough to banish stress by 68%- more than taking a bath, going for a walk and listening to music.

Sleep Better

By now, we all know that getting a good night’s sleep is essential for maintaining good mental health. Poor sleeping patterns have been linked to disorders including depression and anxiety. While we are encouraged to switch off electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops before heading to bed, reading a traditional paper book can work wonders when it comes to winding down. A study into sleep by The Mayo Clinic found that reading can help to ease the transition between feeling wide awake and drifting off to sleep.

Build self esteem

By engaging with high-quality literature, it is believed that people suffering with mental health issues can work on their confidence and learn self-reflection. Many people experience isolation alongside emotional problems; joining reading clubs, paying a visit to the local library or simply reading books which expand the mind and give an insight into other people can all help to deal with this issues.


Reading Well Books

Reading Well Books is an initiative which aims to promote reading and mental health. This programme offers books which can be prescribed by GPs for patients suffering with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues; it also has an NHS-endorsed list of mood-boosting books.

The Reading Well Books scheme, which is supported by health professionals and public libraries, has an extensive range of books to help you understand your mental health and learn how to manage emotions and negative episodes. This is known as self-help reading and has been proven to help many people.


Taking Care of Your Mental Health

While reading can help improve many of the effects of mental illness, it is important to seek advice if you feel like you are struggling to cope with your emotions. All patients are entitled to free, high-quality mental health services on the NHS. If you are experiencing problems with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol misuse or have any other mental health concerns; you should speak to your GP who may recommend a Reading Well book, or refer you to an organisation such as the Richmond Wellbeing Service or a talking therapies counselling session in Richmond.