Reading Makes People Feel Happier and Smarter, According to New Poll

m-imagephotography/iStock via Getty Images
m-imagephotography/iStock via Getty Images

Reading subscription service Scribd wants Americans to read more, and they've recently discovered that a vast majority of Americans would like to see that happen, too.

In late May, the company tasked The Harris Poll with conducting a survey on America's reading habits. They asked more than 2000 adults a variety of questions, such as: Does reading make you feel smarter? Does it enhance your well-being? How does reading compare to scrolling through social media? Among some of the poll's most interesting takeaways:

  • The average person has four hours and 26 minutes of free time each week, but 81 percent of Americans do not read as much as they would like to. Instead of reading, Americans typically use that time to stream movies and/or TV shows (86 percent of people said they do this for a minimum of 15 minutes a day), perform chores (84 percent), and/or scroll through social media (74 percent).
  • Of the individuals polled, 52 percent said they read for at least 15 minutes a day, but only 22 percent reported reading an hour or more a day; 35 percent said they wish they were reading more.
  • It’s a fact that reading even just 15 pages a day comes with a host of benefits, including a more substantial knowledge base and a better vocabulary. When asked how they felt after reading, 55 percent of respondents said they felt more relaxed, 33 percent felt happier, and 32 percent felt smarter. In fact, 75 percent of those polled believe that people who read regularly are smarter than those who do not.
  • Reading makes people feel more accomplished, too: 69 percent said they felt more accomplished after reading versus only 45 percent who felt that way after scrolling through social media.
  • 55 percent of respondents said they only need to read for 15 minutes to feel like they've accomplished something. (Fun fact: People who read books for 30 minutes every day may live an average of 23 months longer than non-readers according to a 2016 study.)
  • Social media can be a time sucker, but according to the poll, it might also be draining our intelligence. 32 percent of respondents said they felt smarter after reading while only 7 percent felt smarter after “reading” social media. 5 percent of people said reading was a waste of their time whereas a whopping 35 percent of people considered spending time on social media a waste of time.

Despite wanting to read more, people aren’t doing it enough: 39 percent of people said they don’t read because they don’t have enough time, while by 22 percent that said that "it’s easier to do other things"—like watching Netflix. For that latter group, Scribd recommends listening to audiobooks, which is better than not reading at all.

The Origins Behind 30 Harry Potter Words and Spells

Mental Floss via YouTube
Mental Floss via YouTube

Muggle. Horcrux. Erised. Wingardium leviosa. To the outside world (or those aforementioned Muggles), Harry Potter fans seem to speak a language unto themselves. But in coming up with the unique words, phrases, and spells that define the Potterverse, J.K. Rowling often looked to the past—and to other languages—for her etymological cues.

In this edition of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is conjuring up the meaning behind dozens of words and spells from Harry Potter’s world.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here.

Annotations in Copy of Shakespeare's First Folio May Have Been John Milton's

GeorgiosArt/iStock via Getty Images
GeorgiosArt/iStock via Getty Images

It's a well-known literary fact that William Shakespeare had an enormous influence on "Paradise Lost" poet John Milton, and new evidence suggests that super fan Milton—who even wrote a poem called "On Shakespeare"—might have owned his idol's first folio.

The folio, which contains 36 of Shakespeare’s plays, was published in 1623—seven years after the Bard’s death. An estimated 750 first folios were printed, with only 233 of them known to have survived, including one with annotations written throughout it. As it turns out, those scribbles might be Milton's.

According to The Guardian, Cambridge University fellow Jason Scott-Warren believes that Milton wrote those important annotations. Scott-Warren read an article about an anonymous annotator written by Pennsylvania State University English professor Claire Bourne. The Folio copy in question has been stored in the Free Library of Philadelphia since 1944, and Bourne was able to date the annotator back to the mid-1600s. (Milton died in 1674.) It was Scott-Warren who noticed that the handwritten notes looked similar to Milton’s handwriting.

"It shows you the firsthand encounter between two great writers, which you don’t often get to see, especially in this period,” Scott-Warren told The Guardian. “A lot of that kind of evidence is lost, so that’s really exciting.”

If the writing does indeed belong to Milton, it’s not the first time the poet has left notes on another writer's work; he supposedly marked up his copy of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Life of Dante as well. Scott-Warren and Bourne plan to pair up to find out if Milton left annotations on any other notable works.

"It was, until a few days ago, simply too much to hope that Milton’s own copy of Shakespeare might have survived—and yet the evidence here so far is persuasive,” Dr. Will Poole, a fellow and tutor at Oxford's New College said. "This may be one of the most important literary discoveries of modern times."

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