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Libraries promote benefit of reading in tackling loneliness

PUBLISHED: 12:12 11 November 2018

Suffolk Libraries is encouraging reading for wellbeing File picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk Libraries is encouraging reading for wellbeing File picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Suffolk Libraries is highlighting the impact reading can have on tackling loneliness, dementia and mental health problems, following new research.

Bruce Leeke, Suffolk Libraries chief executive, said it ran programmes to encourage reading for wellbeing Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNBruce Leeke, Suffolk Libraries chief executive, said it ran programmes to encourage reading for wellbeing Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A report published last week, called A Society of Readers and commissioned by the Reading Agency, highlighted the widespread impact of loneliness, expected to affect seven million over-60s by 2030.

It also predicted four million dementia diagnoses linked to loneliness, and claimed that reading could significantly reduce feelings of isolation for those aged 18 to 64.

It called on the government to invest £200m in using reading to combat the issue.

Bosses at Suffolk Libraries have said they have already seen the health benefits reading can have with its own programmes.

Bruce Leeke, Suffolk Libraries chief executive, said: “The research in this report shows just how important reading can be and the crucial role that libraries can play.

“So many of the issues and ideas in the report support why the work that Suffolk Libraries is doing in communities is vital for the future wellbeing of people of all ages.”

The service organises regular reading groups and activity sessions for older people to help bring them together in a social space, with Mr Leeke in particular highlighting the need for this in rural areas where transport difficulties can sometimes make isolation even harder.

Elsewhere, a mental health service based at the library helps advise people who may be experiencing low mood, and offers signposting to organisations and resources for positive mental wellbeing.

A Books on Prescription scheme is also run by the libraries where self-help books recommended by GPs and other health professionals can be accessed, and a catalogue of recommended reading for specific conditions compiled.

Mr Leeke added: “We recognise that wellbeing and happiness are at the heart of everything we do.

“This includes books and reading because we know they bring so many benefits to the whole community and make people happier.

“I’m hoping this report can bring even more focus on the importance of reading and the need to support and appreciate the enriching power of local libraries.”

The report is available online here.

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