Reading overload ‘sparks paper detox for millions of Britons’

This article was originally published on the BBC News website. Though I may have changed the words a little…

Reading overload has led millions of people in the UK to take a “paper detox”, according to research from regulator Ofcom. The survey found 34% of paper users have taken a period of up to a month away from reading.

Some 59% of those surveyed considered themselves hooked on books, comics, magazines and newspapers, with a third saying they found it difficult to disconnect.

Half said that they spent longer reading than originally intended each day.

The study of 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers forms part of Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report, which assesses the state of reading in the nation.

One quarter of teenagers said that they had been late for school as a result of reading comics, while six in 10 said that they neglected schoolwork.

As a consequence, parents are increasingly taking reading material away from children or restricting their usage.

Adults too are noticing that over-reliance on reading can have social consequences. Four in ten felt that they were regularly ignored by a friend or relative who was too engrossed in their book or newspaper.

Does this look familiar? For too long now, people have read instead of talking to each other.

A typical adult spends an average of 25 hours reading per week, with nearly half (42%) saying they pick up their magazines, books or newspapers more than 10 times a day, the research suggests.

One in 10 attempted to do reading of some kind more than 50 times daily, according to the study.

Reliance on printed material seems to be affecting people’s personal and working lives, leading one in three (34%) to seek a period of time away from them.

A quarter (25%) of those who said they had spent a period of time without reading said they had done it for between half a day and a full day, while two in ten had done so for up to a week. A much smaller proportion of people had done it for longer than a week.

Holidays are seen as a good time to stop staring into paper with 16% of travellers choosing destinations with no libraries and 9% actively seeking places with no newsagents.

When asked why they were taking reading timeouts, 44% said it was to spend more time doing other things and 38% said to spend more time interacting with friends and family.

A third said that they felt more productive as a result of their detox, with a quarter saying they enjoyed life more without reading constantly. The research also looked at how far the printed word has spread.

"Novels are my favourite. There's so much going on!"
“Novels are my favourite. They’re so addictive and there’s so much going on!”

By the end of 2015, there 9.2 million newsagents and magazines accounted for almost half of all subscriptions to reading material, it found.

Some 71% of UK adults now own a phone book.

According to Andrew Przybylski, an experimental psychologist at the Oxford Reading Institute, the research reflects a growing paradox in everyday life.

“Three in four say it brings us in closer touch, but nearly one in two think communication with others can get in the way,” he said.
 He added that it was important to understand that the survey was not a study of reading addiction.

“That is not a recognised psychiatric disorder. This is more about everyday frustrations, not something as serious a problem as gambling or alcohol use.”

The study suggested that the under-25s were the most likely to close their books and unwind, and this is increasingly being reflected in social trends such as book stacking — where groups out for dinner pile their reading material in the centre of the table.

And bars, such as the Gin Tub in Sussex, are banning the printed word on their premises in an attempt to encourage face-to-face conversation.

Have you ever had ‘paper overload’ or have you ever felt addicted to your books? How has it affected your life and well-being? Have you ever done a reading detox? What are your tips? Share your experiences by emailing

Photo credits: main cover photo, group reading, child reading

Originally published at Shooting Azimuths.