An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and well-being

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
Billington J, Dowrick C, Hamer A, Robinson J, Williams C

Year of Publication:

The Reader Organization Liverpool Health Inequalities Research Institute

Publication Type:


The Reader Organisation’s social inclusion programme – “Get into Reading‟- is distinguished from other reading therapies in emphasising the importance of serious, “classic‟ literature and its role in mediating experience and offering a model of human thinking and feeling.

The project established two weekly reading groups, in a GP surgery and a health drop-in centre in Liverpool, of 4-8 voluntary adult participants with a GP diagnosis of depression. The data collected via researcher-observation, digital recording/transcription, and interviews with participants, was subject to literary, linguistic and social-scientific analysis to establish what kinds of literature work and why. These findings were compared and collated with quantitative evidence (depression severity questionnaires).

Participants reported feeling more confident, more willing to talk, to listen and to interact with the other group participants. They valued the reading groups as a stimulating, meaningful, challenging activity which at once helped them to relax, putting personal thoughts aside, while also encouraging increased concentration and attention in relation to the text being read and others‟ responses to it. The clinical data indicated that statistically significant improvements in the mental health of depressed patients had occurred during the 12-month period in which they had attended reading groups.

Evidence Type: Non-Randomised Evaluation

Main Focus: Mental Health

Research Purpose: Outcome Evaluation

Context: Primary Care

Participant Group: Specific Mental Health Condition

Art Forms: Literature

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

Billington, J., Dowrick, C., Hamer, A., Robinson, J. and Williams, C. (2010). An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and well-being. Liverpool: The Reader Organization, Liverpool Health Inequalities Research Institute.