What are the cognitive and social health benefits of reading?

Getting stuck into a good book is such a satisfying feeling, at any age. In fact, Stannah’s recent survey of 1,600 over-60s found that nearly all (91%) of us use our free hours to curl up with a good book! Reading transports us to another world and a great story can make us smile, laugh, cry, feel gripped or relieved. Better yet, reading doesn’t just boost our mood – it offers other cognitive health and social benefits too.

Boosts brain power

Just like the muscles in your body, your brain needs exercise to stay healthy. Cognitive stimulation helps to slow the progress of conditions, such as dementia. Reading keeps our brains active and engaged, strengthening short-term memory and reducing cognitive decline. In fact, Stannah’s research further showed that nearly half of over-60s read every day and still enjoy learning something new. The health benefits don’t stop there – one study even found that reading books can extend our longevity.

Keeps you calm

Getting lost in a novel can be a huge stress reliever. For this reason, books can be prescribed as therapy – known as bibliotherapy. This can be invaluable if you struggle with anxiety, firstly as a form of escapism, but ultimately because it’s proven to keep your heart rate steady and ease muscle tension. The recent survey also found that almost a quarter of respondents carry either a book or e-book with them at any given time, which is worthwhile if you need a little time to relax.

Strengthen social skills

Further research has shown that reading fiction increases feelings of empathy and strengthens social skills – useful traits to have when forming friendships where it’s important to be proactive. Reading for pleasure can also help us feel more connected to the wider community. You might find a local book club near you using a website like Meetup, or perhaps you’re one of the 31% of over-60s who use the traditional library to find books and meet like-minded people. The library can also be a wonderful day out, with cities like Oxford and Manchester boasting some of the most beautiful reading settings in the world.

Bond with grandchildren

Being a bookworm can bring such joy, so why not spread the love? Almost half (45%) of grandparents that Stannah spoke to said that reading with their grandchildren is one of the best things about growing old. With a trusty hardback (and even an audiobook), it’s never been easier to consume stories. Have fun putting on voices and get their imaginations whirling – as well as yours! There is nothing better than getting stuck into a page turner to make you feel better, spark your curiosity and provide hours of entertainment.