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Reading and Health–Latest Research

Written by Chris Routledge, 1st April 2008
Someone who may have benefitted from reading.

(Above) Someone who may have benefited from reading.

Through its Get Into Reading initiative The Reader Organisation has been promoting the therapeutic value of reading for people with mental illnesses, Alzheimer's sufferers, as well as in prisons and other institutional settings. There is some evidence to suggest that reading, and in particular reading aloud, can have a beneficial effect both on general wellbeing and in rehabilitation. But research undertaken at West Lancashire University College suggests that reading literature may lead to more obvious physical improvements. Lead researcher Catherine Morland of the Heroine Rehabilitation Centre at WLUC claims in an article to be published in the journal Book Health that reading can improve skin tone, help rebuild injured muscles, and even prevent hair loss. She commented:

This research is at an early stage and while I've learned over the years not to take anything at face value, there does seem to be a marked physical effect connected with reading. Everyone will recognise the stereotypes: the pale, long-haired poet, the ruddy-faced popular novelist and the stooped don. It has always been thought these physical stereotypes came from lifestyle, but in fact it seems to be reading itself that makes the difference. What you read and how you read it really can make you physically more attractive.

When asked if particular books might be useful in, say, curing obesity, or with dental hygiene issues, Professor Morland was careful not to be too specific. "All I would say is, stay away from Edgar Allan Poe or Mrs Radcliffe. My experience with Gothic novels is not encouraging."

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