Our 2021 research: reading and our wellbeing
Our latest research, the 2021 National Reading Survey, tells us that 85% of New Zealand adults read or started to read at least one book in the past twelve months. We think this is cause to celebrate – that despite all the challenges we’ve faced these past years New Zealand remains a nation of readers. But what about the 15% who aren’t reading, and who are missing out on the many benefits that reading for pleasure brings?
Wellbeing, for example.
All of our respondents were asked to rate how important reading was to their personal wellbeing.
Those who read books in the past year rated above the average at 6.8 out of 10. For these respondents, this is how reading for pleasure affected their wellbeing:
Because it helps me in everyday life (Female, 35-44 years)
It’s the best anti-stress and it helps me learn (Female, 25-34 years)
It’s “me” time. I disappear into a book and the world passes me by (Female, 65-74 years)
Puts me in a good space and relaxes me (Male, 55-64 years)
I do not know why; I just know it is (Male, 35-44 years)
One interesting finding from the research was that female respondents found reading more important to their wellbeing than male respondents.
Either way, their verbatim comments support the extensive research that has been undertaken on the benefits to wellbeing of reading for pleasure.
For example, it has been proven to reduce stress by lowering the heart rate: Mindlab International’s research found that tension eased and heart rates slowed down in subjects who read silently for as little as six minutes.
Study co-author Dr. David Lewis, a neuropsychologist at Mindlab International at Sussex, and colleagues found that participants who engaged in just six minutes of reading – whether a newspaper or a book – experienced a slowed heart rate and reduced muscle tension.
In our survey, a lack of time to read was sighted as an issue for readers, low volume and non-readers alike but all would like to read more if they could. It’s up to us to make the time to read. One way we can do that is to be realistic about the time we have - for some, it might only be ten minutes at a time.
Our advice? Carry a book with you at all times and next time you find yourself with ten minutes to spare, read it. Your heart rate will slow, your mind will empty, you’ll find happiness and joy between the pages. Trust us and give it a try. A daily reading habit is one of the best things you can do for your wellbeing.
More about reading and wellbeing (UK) and a 2019 blog post on our site
Take our fun quiz to help you choose a new book