03 May 7 Scientific Reasons Why Reading Is Good For You
I guess you could say I lived out a Matilda-ish childhood, minus the dickhead parents. Having essentially taught myself how to read from before I could even crawl, reading always proved so, so much more compelling to me than the worms my friends enjoyed devouring aged 5, or the boys they liked to gossip over aged twelve till forever.
But in an age where it’s all Netflix and chill, less and less people are picking up books. Indeed, according to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, only 26% of pupils in England actually ‘like reading’, while a 2014 study found that ¼ of Americans hadn’t read a single book the previous year.
Awful news not just because they’re going to be missing out on some serious gems aka the entire Jacqueline Wilson back-catalogue, Goosebumps, The Famous Five and etc – okay sorry let me get off memory lane – but seriously there are so many good books out there. And no you can’t just watch the movie. It’s not the same thing.
Other than sheer missing out, there are, it turns out, a whole bunch of scientific reasons why we should all be reading. Not least because new research suggests that it can improve relationships and reduce symptoms of depression.
I dug up some scientific reasons why reading books is good for you…
1. It Increases Your Emotional Intelligence
There’s loads of research that suggests that people who read fiction are more empathetic. A 2014 study found that reading fiction improves the readers’ ability to flex the imagination and ‘puts the reader in the body of the protagonist.’
Yup, turns out that when you read about something, your brain reacts as if you’re actually living it. A 2011 study found that the reader’s brain creates intense, graphic mental simulations of the sights, sounds, movements and tastes they encounter in the narrative. This not only allows us to better imagine ourselves in other people’s shoes, but also allows us to experience a wider range of emotions and experiences than we would otherwise.
It’s also suggested that reading makes us more kick ass, overall, due to the fact that most fiction stories see a protagonist overcome obstacles to become a hero. As we’re living the story along with the character, this reportedly then gives us the courage to become our own heroes, regardless of whether that’s simply getting started on that project you’ve been putting off for like, evs.
Studies have found a decrease in empathy in the younger generation, suggested to be because less and less are reading, and more are spending all of their time on social media, playing games or on the Internet, all of which provide instant gratification but no room for empathy.