Reading and Mental Health
Reading is important for our mental health for many reasons. Reading has been shown to help enhance our sense of well-being, foster understanding of ourselves and others, and help us with perspective-taking . Reading also helps strengthen our brain by creating and strengthening connections within different areas in our brain . Moreover, reading can also increase our ability to empathize, which is the ability to understand others’ feelings, beliefs, and perceptions . Reading helps build vocabulary, helps to prevent age-related cognitive decline, reduces stress, can lower blood pressure and heart rate, helps prepare you for a good sleep, helps alleviate symptoms of depression, and even contributes to a longer life ! Read on to discover more ways that reading contributes to our well-being.
What is the relationship between reading and mental health?
Reading has been found to be associated with several mental health outcomes. In particular, one study found that younger boys with reading difficulties were three times more likely to report high levels of depressed mood than their peers . Another study found that students who participated in a story group found greater improvement in mindfulness, optimism, happiness, and positive emotions when compared to a control group that did not participate in a story reading group . In addition, students who participated in this reading group also exhibited a reduction in depression, anxiety, pessimism, and other negative emotions over a 5-week period . Participating in a reading group and practicing reading skills can help improve mental health in children, as the students who participated in a reading group exhibited greater positive feelings.
There is clear evidence for a link between mental wellbeing and reading, as children who read below the level that is expected for their age tend to have lower mental wellbeing scores when compared to their peers who read above expected levels . Furthermore, students with persistent reading struggles have also been found to report significantly greater levels of distress  and individuals with lower literacy have been found to exhibit greater mental health difficulties overall .
How can I improve my reading skills?
There are a variety of strategies that can help improve your reading skills at any age. Specifically, research has shown that good readers tend to:
Read a variety of texts  (e.g., picture books, chapter books, factual books, fiction books, magazines, etc.)
Use different skills, such as looking at the layout and headings, skimming before reading intensely, and finding specific details 
Guess the meaning of words that they do not know (e.g., by identifying key information and looking for clues in the text to understand what the word means) 
Reflect on what they have read 
Use their experiences and knowledge to make predictions 
Use visualization  which is when the reader creates an image of what is read 
Summarize what they read into their own words 
Ask questions to construct meaning, enhance understanding, find answers, solve problems, find information, and discover new information before, during, and after reading 
Make inferences, which is when readers need to use their own knowledge in addition to information from the text to come to conclusions 
We can use strategies to help improve not only our own reading, but the reading of children as well. Specifically, we can teach children different helpful reading strategies at a young age to help foster and build strong reading skills. Although we can’t say that strong reading skills directly improve mental health, there is an important link between the two. Therefore, we can take steps to help become better readers, practice our reading skills, and help children become lifelong readers!
If you need additional support, you can contact us at email@example.com with questions, or to schedule a consultation or book an appointment.
Blog post written by Kassandra Burk and reviewed by Dr. Andrea Stelnicki.
Literature review prepared by Kassandra Burk.
*The information contained in this blog post is based on a narrative review of available literature. Some studies may have been unintentionally omitted. You are advised to speak with a healthcare professional to determine if the information is appropriate to your specific circumstances.*
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 Arslan, G., Yıldırım, M., Zangeneh, M., & Ak, I. (2022). Benefits of positive psychology-based story reading on adolescent mental health and well-being. Child Indicators Research, 15, 781-793. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-021-09891-4
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