So I was browsing around some book-related websites a while ago to find some inspiration for more bookish posts when I stumbled upon this question: ‘Is reading too much a bad thing?‘
I know most bookworms would immediately say “Never!”, me included. But while I can think of dozens of reasons why reading is the best, I can also think of one or two reasons why reading can be a bad thing.
So, I decided to do some research! Here’s my journey through studies, researches, surveys, and experiences.
Before Google helped me out
Ok, so first I wanted to share some reasons why I think reading (a lot) can be good or bad.
Reading feels a lot more productive to me than watching tv-shows, and it’s a lot more accessible. Yes, I know we can have Netflix on our phones right now, but can you even hear it when you’re surrounded by people?
Reading books improves language skills. I picked up English a lot faster and I still notice my English is better when I read more.
Reading is a way to escape real life, which, I guess, is the reason why most of the avid readers I know are introverts and people who didn’t have the best childhood (bullies, etc). They’re the ones who had to escape.
For me, that’s a good reason, though. But I can see how too much reading can make a person anti-social and isolated. And well, besides spending too much money on books, that’s the only bad thing I can think of.
Why You Should Read
As I thought, reading increases intelligence. It’s not just language skills, but as Dr. Seuss once wrote: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Children’s books expose children to 50% more words than TV, or even a conversation between college graduates, according to this study.
Did you know the average person will work on a task, check email, keep an eye on (social media) notifications, and interact with co-workers, all in a 30-minute time span? But a book doesn’t have notifications or distractions, which can help improve your focus and concentration—try reading before work or during your lunch break.
Reading also increases your brain power. Regular reading improves memory function, it kind of works as a work out for your brain. According to research, regular reading may help slow the process of decline in memory and brain function while aging.
A survey in the UK found that people who read regularly felt happier with themselves and their lives (and live longer too, according to this study). They reported being less stressed and less depressed, had higher levels of self-esteem, and a greater ability to cope with challenges. They also scored higher in terms of feeling close to friends and their community, and have a stronger awareness of social issues and cultural diversity compared to non-readers.
And while we may spend more time with a book compared to other people who socialize, research shows reading can actually make you more empathic. Yep, fictional characters can make it easier to relate to others, because it helps readers understand people’s emotions. The impact is much more significant on readers of literary fiction as opposed to non-fiction, though.
Reading fiction can also help you be more open-minded and creative, according to research. Participants who read short-story fiction tested as more open-minded compared to readers of nonfiction essays.
But, for most of us, the health improvements aren’t the reasons why we pick up a book. We do it because:
- Reading helps us relax—it can reduce stress by as much as 68%, according to this study.
- Reading before bed can help you sleep better, but it should be a paper book (see this experiment).
Reading physical books seem to have a bigger impact than e-books, though. See, another reason to prefer traditional books over an e-reader ;).
How Reading is Bad for Your Health
How do you prefer to read your book? In bed, on the couch? And how’s your posture? Reading can cause poor posture, so beware of the reader’s hunchback (which I just made up and isn’t an actual thing according to Google, although it’s a very real thing for people with smartphones. Totally different, of course…).
I like to read traditional books, but often fail to turn on a good reading light. Just because I prefer warm, cozy lighting over bright lights that help me read. Stunts like this may or may not cause bad eyesight in readers (according to my parents, it does).
As for bookworms being isolated or anti-social—I couldn’t find any studies, research, or articles confirming this, except for articles from 2010 explaining why e-readers make readers less isolated, see here (spoiler: because people want to see the e-reader or iPad, which was pretty new back then), and this one from Jamie, about reader stereotypes. I guess I’m guilty of stereotyping readers, although, in my experience, as a kid, it was hard to find friends because my hobby was reading, not soccer or gymnastics. I do agree with Jamie’s point about how technology has made being a bookworm much more sociable: just look at bookstagram, Twitter, book blogs, meet-ups, buddy reads, etc! And luckily, I now have several friends who love to read and come to bookstores with me.
I also wanted to share a few articles from fellow bloggers about the negative consequences of reading too much:
- Paper Fury: 10 Dreadful Things That Will Happen If You Read Too Much.
- Bustle: 12 Things That Happen When You Read “Too Much”
TL;DR, is Reading Too Much a Bad Thing?
I’m gonna say: “Never!”
Bad eyesight can be fixed with glasses, and bad posture can be fixed with physical therapy, although people seem more worried about hunchbacks for smartphone addicts than reading addicts.
There are simply too many positive consequences for the few bad ones to count. And, of course, the fact that I love reading helps too.
What about you, are you surprised by any of these aftereffects of reading (a lot)?