Reading for wellbeing

On this page you can find information about reading, health and well-being. The page is split into the following sections:



Reading, health and wellbeing

The cost of mental health in England is estimated to be £14 billion a year, and, additionally, mental health conditions are believed to raise the costs of physical health care by at least 45%.

  • Research suggests that regular reading is associated with a 35% reduction in the risk of dementia. It can reduce stress levels by 68%.
  • Taking part in social reading activity like reading groups can help people feel less isolated and develop mental concentration and mental agility

Centre for Economic Performance's Mental Health Policy Group, 2012
Leisure activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly, New England Journal of Medicine, 2003


Reading groups for everyone

Research commissioned by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council carried out by The Reading Agency and the Department of Information Science at Loughborough University (LISU) found that public libraries make a significant contribution to health and well-being in communities, particularly through reading groups and the other creative activities they offer.

Reading group membership:

• Supports learning

• Provides opportunities for relaxation and for enjoyment

• Develops individual confidence and self esteem

• Builds a feeling of belonging and inclusion

• Promotes a sense of well-being

• Provides a lifeline in difficult circumstances


Shropshire Public Libraries holds over 300 sets of books specifically for reading groups to borrow. If you'd like to join a library reading group, the dates of the next meetings are listed at

If you'd like to form your own reading group, Shropshire library staff will be pleased to help you with ideas to get started. There are also hints and tips on the Reading Groups for Everyone website.



Reading Ahead Scheme

Do you or those you work with want to improve your literacy skills, or are you just discovering the joy of reading for pleasure?
If either of these applies, you may be the target audience for the Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead Scheme which we are launching at the Trust
Run through public libraries, adult learning organisations, colleges, workplaces and prisons, Reading Ahead invites participants to pick six reads and record, rate and review them in a diary in order to get a certificate. The aim is that participants challenge themselves to try something new and discover that reading can be a pleasure in the process. 
The Reading Agency is offering 11 prizes for completers of Reading Ahead 2018/19 by mid-June 2019 as follows:
1st prize: Bestselling writer Adele Parks, author of 18 Sunday Times bestsellers with a total of more than three million copies sold in the UK, will include the name of the winner of our national prize draw in one of her future books. 
Runners-up: 10 prizes of £25 each.
Contact Francis Costello Library (location 9 x4388) to sign up and get your reading diary. We recommend our Quick Reads Collection as a good starting point. Quick Reads are short and engaging books written by top authors and are great reads if you are short of time and/or want to gain more confidence in reading
*Please share this information with your colleagues and at team meetings as those who want to improve their reading skills may not be reading this.



Mood boosting books list

Reading Well Mood-boosting Books is a national promotion of uplifting titles, including novels, poetry and non-fiction. The books have been recommended by readers – FCL extended collection


Reading Well Dementia Books is a collection that has been developed with health and library professionals, people with dementia and carers. The collection is available at FCL – Dementia Collection list


Reading Well Books on Prescription provides self-help reading for adults based on cognitive behavioural therapy for a range of common mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, phobias and some eating disorders. Titles are available from your local library. See the library website for further details at


Examples of impact

'Read to Care: An Investigation into Quality of Life Benefits of Shared Reading Groups for People Living with Dementia' (2014):

The conclusions and recommendations of the report show that shared reading groups significantly improve the quality of life of people living with dementia, as well as providing valuable benefit to care workers and relatives in encouragement of remaining human possibilities.


‘A Literature-Based Intervention for Older People Living with Dementia’ (Davis, P. Billington, J. Carroll, J. Healey, C. Kinderman, P., 2012):

Funded by the Headley Trust, the conclusions of this six-month study found that the literature-based intervention provided by Get Into Reading produces a significant reduction in dementia symptoms and benefits the quality of life of both the residents and staff carers.


'An Evaluation of a Literature-Based Intervention for People with Chronic Pain' (Billington, J. Humphreys, A-L.  McDonnell, K. Jones, A., 2014):

This study, conducted through a partnership between researchers from CRILS and Health Sciences at the University of Liverpool, The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen NHS Hospital Trust and The Reader Organisation, investigates whether shared reading as a literature-based intervention was beneficial for people with chronic pain when delivered in a clinical setting. Positive impacts in terms of pain and psychological wellbeing were found in areas such as absorbed concentration, a sense of shared community, comradeship and friendship, mood and quality of life.


‘An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and well-being’ (Josie Billington, Chris Dowrick, Andrew Hamer, Jude Robinson, and Clare Williams, 2010):

This one-year research study concluded that shared reading groups helped patients suffering from depression in terms of their social, mental, emotional and psychological well-being. The clinical data indicated that statistically significant improvements in the mental health of depressed patients had occurred during the 12-month period in which they had attended reading groups.


Bibliotherapy websites:


The Reading Agency

The Reading Agency is a charity whose mission is to inspire more people to read more, encourage them to share their enjoyment of reading and celebrate the difference that reading makes to all our lives.

The Reader Organisation

The Reader is an award-winning charitable social enterprise working to connect people with great literature through shared reading. We’re here to bring books to life, creating welcoming environments in which personal feeling is recognised and valued, forming vital connections between people and literature through which everyone can feel more alive.

The Reader Organisation aims to improve self-confidence and self-esteem, build social networks, widen horizons and give people a sense of belonging. Their shared reading groups promote and provide a holistic approach to wellbeing and have provided positive impacts within the culture of partner organisations.

Their approach aligns with the ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People’ strategy for public health, the Five Ways to Wellbeing and the 2011 cross government strategy, ‘No Health Without Mental Health’ to:

  • Improve health and keep people well through early intervention and prevention strategies that tackle underlying causes: chronic loneliness, isolation and inactivity
  • Ensure the NHS, local government and third sector are working together 


ReLit is the Bibliotherapy Foundation, a charitable enterprise dedicated to the complementary treatment of stress, anxiety and other conditions through mindful reading. We believe that attentive immersion in great literature can relieve, restore and reinvigorate the human mind


Related documents

Healthy Horizons – RJAH intranet

FCL Dementia Collection