Guest blog: Listening for Mental Health


According to research from the University of Sussex, reading is faster at reducing stress than listening to music or going for a walk. Even six minutes of reading can be enough to reduce stress levels by more than two thirds.*

But there are many things that can make reading books difficult, such as a disability or ill health. Thankfully, audiobooks provide all the benefits of reading and more!

1.    Audiobooks are Great for Escapism

Listening to a story is an immersive way to experience it. Narrators bring stories and characters to life, so it’s easier to relax and lose yourself for a while.

2.    Audiobooks Talk Over Negative Thoughts

Concentrating long enough to read when negative thoughts are racing can be next to impossible. An audiobook can distract you from this and give you a much-needed break.

3.    Audiobooks Can Make you Laugh

When you’re listening to an audiobook, you’re sharing the experience with the narrator, so it’s easier to laugh. The best way to get started is with an autobiography from your favourite comic!

4.     Audiobooks Are Comforting

It’s a big world out there but sometimes it feels like we’re becoming increasingly isolated. Audiobooks are great at providing comfort and a voice reading a story can help keep you company.  

5.    Audiobooks are Portable

Listen in the car, whilst doing chores or even in the dark. You can listen to audiobooks anywhere!

The Listening Books Service

Listening Books provides a library of over 7,500 audiobooks catering for anyone who finds that ill health, a disability, a learning disability or a mental health condition impacts on their ability to read or hold a book.

Audiobooks are available to download to an app available for most phones and tablets, to stream online or sent direct through the letterbox on MP3 CD with no postage costs or late fees.

Membership starts from just £20 per year to access up to 10 audiobooks a week – that’s 520 audiobooks a year!

Free memberships are also provided to anyone who would find it difficult to cover the annual membership fee.

How Audiobooks Help Mental Health

When she started having panic attacks while reading, Listening Books member Miriam (not her real name) found that audiobooks helped her:

"It sounds like a cliché but I’ve always loved to read,’ she said. ‘So imagine how utterly broken I was when a few years ago I discovered that the physical act of reading a book was giving me heart palpitations and an intense sensation of panic.

"For a long time I couldn’t bring myself to open a book. And, if I did manage to, I’d get a few words in and have to take a breather. Literally, I’d have to do some deep breathing exercises.

"Listening to audiobooks means I can put on my headphones, press play and be somewhere else and someone else for a while. I don’t have to force myself to physically pick up a book or exhaust myself with the effort of concentration. I don’t have to watch my breathing and I can carve out a space where I can just be, away from the world for a time."

Getting Started

For more information on how to become a member, please visit the Listening Books website. You can also email: or call 020 7407 9417.


*The Telegraph news article: Reading-can-help-reduce-stress