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Health & Wellbeing

Health And Wellbeing

Our impact

By improving self-confidence and self-esteem, building social networks, widening horizons and giving people a sense of belonging, shared reading groups promote and provide a holistic approach to wellbeing and have provided positive impacts within the culture of partner organisations.

Our 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 tackling underlying causes: chronic loneliness, isolation and inactivity
  • Ensure the NHS, local government and third sector are working together

“Get Into Reading is one of the most significant developments to have taken place in Mersey Care NHS Trust and mental health practice in the last ten years.” - Dr David Fearnley, Medical Director, Mersey Care NHS Trust

The need

  • One in four British adults will experience a diagnosable mental health problem in any one year, and one in six will experience this at any given time
  • One third of people with depression and half with anxiety disorders have no health service support
  • Stark health inequalities are worsening: people in poorest areas die seven years earlier with higher rates of mental illness, disability, harm from alcohol, drugs and smoking.
  • NHS spends £9 billion each year on branded prescription medicines
  • Mental ill health accounts for a quarter of the UK’s burden of illness, costing society £105b a year in England

(Source: Office for National Statistics)

Our aims

  • To change lives
  • To enhance communities
  • To transform institutions

Our outcomes

  • Increased confidence. Engaging with serious literature builds members’ confidence and self-esteem, and brings people who feel excluded into a wider cultural conversation.

“You are encouraged to discuss the books read and voice your opinions even if they are different from others.”  Gerard, community group, Liverpool

  • Greater self-reflection and self-awareness. Reflecting on texts can be a safe way of looking at psychological issues and gaining insight into oneself.

“It’s good because our lives are like stories.” John, acute ward, London

  • Improved wellbeing and building social networks.

“I have been a service user for 7 years as I have a severe and enduring mental illness. I rarely left the house and had minimal contact with people other than my family. Through attending the weekly reading group, my self-confidence has grown far beyond anything I could have hoped for. My recovery is going so well that I am about to embark on a course to become a reading group facilitator myself and I can’t wait.” Anne, community group, Wirral

  • Cultural change in institutions. Groups in health settings have a positive impact within organisations, at a time when health and other public services are under considerable stress.

“Other staff catch our enthusiasm. It’s like laughter in the way that it’s contagious; we come out of the group buzzing, the buzz comes out with us, and the other staff catch some of that.” Rachel, Mersey Care NHS Trust

  • 74% of service users said shared reading has improved their mood
  • 81% are more able to relax
  • 72% felt shared reading had helped them to think about things in a different way
  • 70% feel their group has helped them to understand people better

The groups also preserve the mental and physical health of those who are well and build mental resilience, whilst supporting those already suffering from chronic mental ill health, protecting them against further acute episodes.

A Social Return on Investment report conducted by the Centre of Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University (May 2013) reported an average social return to the health and wellbeing of shared reading group members of £6.47 for every £1 spent on delivery. This improvement may be felt in terms of better health, increased confidence or simply having the opportunity to meet new people and try new things. Read the full report here.

Our delivery partners

Liverpool and North West: 5 Boroughs Partnership Trust, Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Knowsley CCG, Knowsley Council, Greater Manchester West Mental Health Trust, Mersey Care NHS Trust, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust

London: Central London Community Health Trust, West London CCG, West London Mental Health Trust

South West: Gloucestershire CCG

National: Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust

What else?

Research: An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and wellbeing

This two-year research study concluded that shared reading groups helped patients suffering from depression in terms of their social, mental, emotional and psychological well-being. It found that there were four significant ‘mechanisms of action’ involved in the reading group intervention, three of which were essential to its success, the fourth influential:

  • A rich, varied, non-prescriptive diet of serious literature
  • The role of the group facilitator in making the literature ‘live’ in the room
  • The role of the group in offering support and a sense of community
  • The creation of stimulating, non-pressurised, non-judgemental atmosphere (‘not like school’, as one participant emphatically put it) overrode considerations of physical environment.

(Billington et al, LivHIR, 2010)

Northwest Mental Health Reader in Residencies

In September 2012, The Reader was commissioned to deliver part-time Reader in Residencies in the six mental health trusts in Northwest England that did not already have such projects:  Cheshire and Wirral Partnership Trust, Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Cumbria Partnership Trust, Manchester Health and Social Care Trust, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, and Lancashire Mental Health Trust.  The chief aim of the project was to improve service user experience and wellbeing, through the provision of 24 weekly Shared Reading groups, reaching 400 people, over a period of 6 months. Click to our Reader Stories section to read more about the outcomes of the project.

Get Into Reading in the South West: Five Ways To Wellbeing

We worked with film maker Bill Wells to produce a new promotional DVD showcasing South West projects within a framework of the national Five Ways to Wellbeing strategy. Committed group members, key clinical professionals and democratic representatives have given generously of themselves and their time to showcase what effect shared reading has had on them. View the video on our YouTube channel.

Project Story: Mersey Care Reads

Project Story: John Denmark Unit, Manchester

How can I find out more?

We have a specific health and wellbeing focus in our work across Liverpool and the North West, and the South West. Visit our 'Where We Work' pages for more information about health and wellbeing projects in these regions.


  • /media/63903/MRL_5280.jpg

    An evaluation of the social value of the Get Into Reading initiative in Wirral, Merseyside

    This report, by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, uses a social return on investment analysis (SROI) to assess the impact of Get Into Reading on the health and wellbeing of participants. The evaluation found that, for every £1 invested in Get Into Reading, a social return average of £6.47 was generated.

  • /media/23920/London.jpg

    How Get Into Reading meets the Five Ways To Wellbeing

    Discover how Get Into Reading improves individual and collective wellbeing by allowing people to Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give/Volunteer

  • /media/12816/blog_pic.jpg

    An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and wellbeing

    This study found that there were four significant ‘mechanisms of action’ involved in the reading group intervention, three of which were essential to its success, the fourth influential

reader story

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