We’ve always known that reading improves our intelligence; that if we read educational books we are more likely to become well-rounded human beings.
But, sometimes, when we’re squished between commuters on the central line at 7.45am, a book about Napoleon Bonaparte just doesn’t quite hit the spot. Sometimes we’re just in the mood for some real escapist pulp.
Well, it turns out that even these books have their benefits.
According to a new study, reading for pleasure could have an enormous impact on our everyday lives, and empower us to make more positive life changes.
The research, commissioned by Galaxy and conducted by the University of Liverpool on behalf of Quick Reads reveals that, not only are books brilliant and joyful escapism, but also that they can make us more tolerant and empathetic, and provide us with the confidence to make monumental life decisions.
Results of the study reveal that over a quarter of adults – 27% - have been inspired to make positive life changes after reading.
Thirty six percent of people were inspired to go travelling from a book, 19% reported feeling inspired to seek out a new hobby, and 20% were motivated to take better care of their health.
Additionally, books were seen to influence the way we interact with others.
Fifty percent of people say that reading made them more sympathetic, and 17% say reading makes them more likely to react calmly during a disagreement.
The report also revealed the enormous impact reading had upon stress, with 41% of people considering it a better way to relax than hanging out with friends, and 38% citing it as their number one stress remedy.
People reported that when they felt an affiliation with a character in a book, it gave them comfort and made them feel better about their own lives, with 31% reporting books made them realise their were happy with their lives as they were.
Interestingly, the characters which most inspired people were not the brave or loyal ones, but those who were written as flawed or funny – with women saying that the loveable Bridget Jones was the female character with whom they most identified.
The study also revealed that, although there are obvious health benefits to reading, the rise of the internet and smartphones had led to a decline in the past-time, with 35% of people admitting that they would like to read but are more likely to be distracted by television or the internet.
Lead researcher, Dr Josie Billington at the University of Liverpool, says that:
“What has been made abundantly clear by this research is that books can help us to enjoy the little things in life, and be happier in ourselves.
“It’s a useful and timely reminder for all of us to draw on the many benefits that only reading can deliver,” she says.
The top 5 characters from bestselling novels most women identify with:
1) Bridget Jones
2) Harry Potter
3) Bella Swan, Twilight
4) Anna Fitzgerald, My Sister's Keeper
5) Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
The 2016 Galaxy Quick Reads are bite-sized books written by best-selling authors for £1. Available now from bookshops, supermarkets and online or libraries nationwide.