The idea of curling up with a good book might not sound so appealing to teenagers, but research from the National Literary Trust shows a strong link between reading and good mental health – and there’s plenty more research where that came from.
In fact, by spending time reading every day, you are more likely to:
It’s clear, then: reading will not only make you feel happier, it will also help you build positive relationships with other people.
Mental health in young people is a serious issue. Government research shows that 11.2% of young people aged between 5 and 19 are suffering from a mental health disorder. This is a worrying figure, and one that has grown considerably since 1999 – when just over 9% of young people reported a mental health problem. Given that 75% of mental health disorders in adults begin in childhood, any action that you can take to improve your mental health should be at the very top of your priority list.
No matter the town or country, boys consistently read less than girls. What’s more, a report from 2016 shows that boys are more likely than girls to skip pages and to choose books that are too easy for them to read. Forget the mental health benefits for a second and remember that reading also builds a better vocabulary, increases memory and boosts imagination and creativity. By choosing not to build a regular reading habit, boys are missing out on these brain-boosting benefits.
It’s no secret that regular readers are more likely to be successful in school than those who avoid the books. They have a better memory, better comprehension skills and are even more likely to get higher grades in Maths. Reading really can open doors for you, no matter what career path you want to take.
If you want to reap some of the many rewards of reading, don’t think that you have to end your social life and start reading enormous novels every day. You really don’t. Any form of literature counts as reading: from a blog post or short story, to a comic or poem. The trick is to read around and find something you enjoy. If you’re completely lost, enter some keywords into Google and see what you find. Once you’ve found something you like, you are far more likely to make reading a regular habit.
When coupled with some creative writing, the mental health benefits of reading are doubled. Seriously. Letting your mind wander on a topic is a brilliant way to boost creativity, de-stress and improve academic performance. Like reading, writing doesn’t have to be serious or time-consuming. These creative writing prompts can be done in under 10 minutes, which is just enough time to relax body and mind.
Kaye Jones is a teacher and freelance writer, with a passion for history and education.