Investment in reading would combat loneliness

A new report has highlighted the benefits of using reading as a form of social connection in order to help radically improve the lives of the isolated people of our nation.

A Society of Readers, published by the think tank Demos and commissioned by national charity The Reading Agency, says that loneliness in the UK will reach epic proportions by 2030, with seven million people experiencing loneliness in the over-60 age group alone.

With two million people likely to have a shortened life due to loneliness, the report finds that reading books can significantly reduce feelings of loneliness for people aged 18 to 64 and is increasingly associated with having close relationships. Therefore, the two organisations are calling on the government to take reading more seriously and invest £200 million in using reading to combat loneliness.

The report also recommends the creation of ‘Book Relief’ along similar lines to Comic Relief fundraiser Sport Relief, to raise money for reading charities and raise the profile of reading.

Polly Mackenzie, chief executive of Demos, said: “The central message of this report is that the nation’s perception of reading must change. It should become a strategic social objective for us all – state, market and civil society – to work towards becoming a “society of readers”. Reading may not seem like a radical solution to solving some of the biggest issues of this generation, however this report proves that reading can train our brains and hold off dementia, help us foster connections with other people and alleviate loneliness and depression. It’s no exaggeration to say that reading can transform British society.”

Sue Wilkinson, Reading Agency chief executive, said: “Demos’s predictions for 2030 offer a desperately concerning outlook. If we don’t start to tackle issues of loneliness, mental health and social mobility now, then we will continue to put pressure on our vital workforces such as the care sector and the NHS. The forecasts for the loneliness epidemic are particularly shocking, but reading can be part of the solution.

“As this report demonstrates, it is not only an essential life skill but has huge power to bring people together to combat loneliness among all age groups. Through reading-based national interventions, we can future-proof our society, and ultimately use reading to help protect younger generations at risk of rising levels of loneliness. We have already seen through our Reading Friends programme that social reading can have profound impact on older people who are often the most vulnerable in society. We hope these benefits will eventually be opened up to everyone.”