Five minutes reading a day keeps the blues away, says Queen’s first book club study

Queen Camilla speaks to Dame Joanna Lumley (left) during a reception to mark the findings of a new research study commissioned by The Queen's Reading Room charity, at Clarence House in London
Queen Camilla, right, is greeted by Dame Joanna Lumley during a reception to mark the findings of a research study commissioned by The Queen's Reading Room charity - Yui Mok/PA

The Queen has hailed the results of her book club’s first scientific study, which found five minutes of reading a day is as valuable to mental wellbeing as walking 10,000 steps and eating five portions of fruit and vegetables.

The Queen, 76, hosted a Clarence House reception to celebrate the third anniversary of The Queen’s Reading Room and its first as a registered charity.

She said the pioneering neuroscientific research, commissioned to investigate the link between reading and mental health, marked just the beginning of a new chapter for the charity, as it seeks to change attitudes towards reading.

“In addition to our five a day and our 10,000 steps, we should all be aiming for at least five minutes of reading every day for invaluable benefits for brain health and mental wellbeing,” she said.

“Just as we always suspected, books are good for us – and now science is proving us right!”

The study found reading for just five minutes can reduce stress, improve concentration and help people feel more connected.

The Queen met some of those involved in the research including Prof Tara Spires-Jones, the president of the British Neuroscience Association, Prof Barbara Sahakian, the head of faculty at the University of Cambridge, and Prof Joseph Devlin, the head of faculty at University College London.

The findings will be released on Wednesday.

Queen Camilla meeting Sir Derek Jacobi (centre) and Edward Fox during a reception to mark the findings of a new research study commissioned by The Queen's Reading Room charity, at Clarence House in London
The Queen with Sir Derek Jacobi, centre - Yui Mok/PA

Reading Room successes

The Queen hailed the huge leaps made over the last three years by the Reading Room, which was launched following the success of two lockdown reading lists she released during coronavirus lockdowns in 2020.

“Since it began three years ago, it has reached nearly 12 million people through all its platforms, produced more than a thousand pieces of educational literary content and had its inaugural festival at Hampton Court, attended by almost 8,000 people from as far afield as the United States, Canada, Northern Africa, Australia and New Zealand,” she said.

“It’s also launched a podcast, which this year will take us into the ‘reading rooms’ of 32 captivating writers, actors and thinkers.

“And now, this first study sees us embarking on an important journey to understand the science behind the power of stories to enrich our lives.

“This would not have been possible without all of you: your talents, your imagination, your originality, your support and, most of all, your profound love of the written word.”

The reception marked the first of three public engagements the Queen is conducting this week as she ploughs on while both the King and the Princess of Wales undergo cancer treatment.

On Sunday, she will join the King at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, for the traditional Easter Matins service, his first public engagement since his diagnosis in early February.

The Queen told her guests that 2024 marked the 125th anniversary of the birth of “the late, great Sir Noël Coward” who died on March 26, 51 years ago.

“He was a brilliant and very funny man who, as a friend of the Queen Mother, came to many events here,” she said.

A marvellous party

“I doubt, however, that this reception will be quite as hair-raising as that in The Master’s song, I Went to a Marvellous Party, with its wonderful lines: ‘We knew the excitement was bound to begin / When Laura got blind on Dubonnet and gin / And scratched her veneer with a Cartier pin / I couldn’t have liked it more.’”

The Queen told her guests that Coward had frequently admitted he “wasn’t really one for parties”, preferring to be at home with an apple and a good book.

“While I hope that none of you is currently wishing the same, it is, of course, primarily our shared love of good books that has brought us together this evening,” she added.

“That, and the need to celebrate and thank you all and to do all we can to promote a passion for reading.”

Vicki Perrin, the chief executive of the Queen’s Reading Room, said the research into the links between reading and mental wellbeing was the first it had commissioned but that the charity planned to continue its work in the field.

“These findings have been really significant,” she told The Telegraph.

“We’ve always known that reading is good for us but these findings have proven that there is clearly an important link between reading and mental health, brain health and social connectedness.

“We’re aware that we are only just scratching this surface with this research – and it occurs to us that there is so much more to explore with regards to reading fiction and wellbeing, but for now, we hope that this very first piece of research will start to change the way we think about reading.”

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