Friday, March 02, 2018

Take Two Books and Call Me in the Morning

Feeling low, feeling down? Well, maybe it’s time to stick your nose in a book—in particular, a good mystery or crime novel.

According to Britain’s Daily Mail, researchers from the University of Turin in Italy have determined that “participants in at least six studies saw significant improvements in their depression scores for up to three years after taking part in a course of reading therapy.” Their findings suggest that such “bibliotherapy” is “effective in the reduction of depressive symptoms in the long term, and could be an affordable treatment that reduces the need for medications.” Meanwhile, another team from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, working with the elderly, “found 18 studies, dating back decades, suggesting reading could boost the mood of pensioners.”

In 2013, the UK’s Department of Health launched “Books on Prescription,” a program that encourages medical doctors and mental health professionals to recommend reading material as a substitute or supplement to drugs for patients suffering from depression. Some of the promoted books are self-help works, but not all.

Dr. Liz Brewster, “a lecturer ... at Lancaster Medical School who has studied the effects of bibliotherapy in mental illness,” is quoted in The Daily Mail as saying that “Many people with depression feel isolated, but reading about other people’s experiences—even if they are fictional—can give them hope.” She calls the Books on Prescription scheme “a first-line treatment, either instead of antidepressants, or alongside them, while patients are waiting for talking therapies.” The paper notes that “even easy-to-read crime dramas can bolster the well-being of patients with depression.” As Brewster explains, “My research shows some patients like the comfort and safety of a crime drama, where they know the crime will be solved.”

If only all medical problems could be relieved so agreeably …

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