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Reading for just five minutes can reduce stress by nearly 20%

The Queen’s Reading Room, the literary charity set up by Her Majesty Queen Camilla

Key findings revealed that just 5 minutes of reading can reduce stress by nearly 20%, improve concentration and focus by as much as 11% and that reading earlier in the day can help readers feel ready to tackle challenges


Participants in the neuroscientific element of the study were asked to complete a number of tasks whilst wearing a portable brain scan & skin watch which measured biometric readings, brave waves & skin conductance levels



The results have proven a clear link between reading fiction and increased mental health, brain health and social connectedness


The Queen’s Reading Room, the literary charity set up by Her Majesty Queen Camilla, has announced key findings from its first ever study into the link between reading and wellbeing.


The research, which was carried out between December 2023 and March 2024 by Trinity McQueen and Split Second Research, marks the first time The Queen’s Reading Room has commissioned qualitative, quantitative and neuroscientific research.



During the neuroscientific element of the research, participants completed an everyday problems questionnaire whilst having biometric recordings taken. They then engaged in reading from a work of fiction for five minutes before a second set of biometric readings were taken.


A portable brain scan (EEG), was used to measure participants' brain activity and was able to collect a whopping 1, 736 points per millisecond. Skin conductance levels, (which relate to changes in emotional arousal and increased sweating), were measured by an Empatica medical watch which collects around 250 recordings per second. Over the course of the neuroscientific study, it is estimated that nearly 72 million data points were collected in total.


The findings suggest that reading fiction for just five minutes can significantly reduce stress by nearly 20% and improve concentration and focus by around 11%.



For the quantitative element of the study, a nationally representative sample of 2,001 UK adults aged 18+ were divided into high, moderate, low, lapsed and non-fiction reading categories. Reaction-time testing was carried out on these respondents to establish implicit attitudes and benefits derived from reading fiction. The results indicate that high frequency fiction readers are significantly less likely to report feelings of loneliness and more likely to report feeling connected with others, in comparison to non-readers.


The quantitative research supports the idea that moderate and high frequency readers are more able to deal with complex tasks commanding concentration. High frequency fiction readers reported that they find it easier to read a map, find a new place and read and follow a newspaper story, while those who read fiction more frequently are also more likely to believe reading fiction keeps their brain sharp and improves their intellect.



Meanwhile, the qualitative research findings also suggest that a period of reading can help the reader to feel refreshed and recharged. Participants were tasked to select a physical book or audio book from a wide list of reading options. They were asked to read it for at least 1 hour in total over the 2 weeks and complete a reading journal throughout. Despite feeling apprehensive before reading, once immersed in the book, readers reported feeling many positive benefits including feeling refreshed and recharged.


Speaking about the results of the Queen’s Reading Room Study, Vicki Perrin, CEO of The Queen’s Reading Room said:


“As a charity, we are fascinated by the relationship between reading and wellbeing and it comes as no surprise to us that there are clear benefits to reading.



“We are delighted that our very first neuroscientific study has been able to confirm what we have all known for so long - that there is an important link between improved mental health, brain health and social connectedness, and that it should be nurtured further.


“Whilst this research has only just begun to scratch the surface of what reading can do for our wellbeing, we very much hope that the results of our study will spur a shift in the way we think about reading.”


Key findings in the Queen’s Reading Room Study included:


REDUCED STRESS - Just five minutes of reading can significantly reduce stress by 19%


STRESS MANAGEMENT - Reading fiction can help people manage their stress levels better and cope with stressful situations


CONCENTRATION - Moderate and high frequency readers feel more able to deal with complex tasks which command attention



IMPROVED FOCUS - Reading for five minutes can improve cognitive focus (concentration) by around 11%


SET UP FOR THE DAY AHEAD - Reading at different times of the day can yield different benefits. Those who read fiction in the morning experienced a significant drop in their stress levels, which may have helped to ‘set them up for the day’.


• ESCAPISM - Fiction is one of the most effective ways to experience escapism, and can also help people feel ‘refreshed’ and ‘recharged’


• SOCIAL CONNECTEDNESS - The qualitative research indicated that fiction readers are significantly less likely to report feelings of loneliness and more likely to report feeling connected with others


• EMPATHY - The qualitative research also demonstrates that reading can help people develop empathy and emotional intelligence



The Queen’s Reading Room is a charity and literary hub on a mission to help readers and non-readers alike find and connect with books they will love.


Through exclusive author interviews and behind-the- scenes content, The Queen’s Reading Room seeks to advance education by providing opportunities for the appreciation of literature among adults and children, introducing and celebrating books from around the world and the extraordinary people who create them. Its purpose is to help more people find and connect with books – chosen for their educative, literary or historic merit - which enrich their lives and turn them into lifelong readers.


The former Duchess of Cornwall launched ‘The Reading Room’ on Instagram in January 2021 with Charlie Mackesy and his wonderfully illustrated ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’. Since then, there have been fourteen complete seasons with four widely different but equally compelling books featuring in each. The project was relaunched as the charity ‘The Queen’s Reading Room’ in February 2023 by Her Majesty The Queen.

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