Reading could help people experiencing loneliness

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Around 9 million people in the UK say they often or always feel lonely, a figure that is expected to get worse by 2030.

A significant body of evidence has shown that reading could help halt the loneliness epidemic facing Britain, according to a report by leading think tank, Demos and charity The Reading Agency.

The report, entitled ‘A Society of Readers’ says that reading books can significantly reduce feelings of loneliness for people aged 18-64 and it is also associated with having close relationships.

The report coincides with the launch of a new programme from The Reading Agency called Reading Friends, funded by the Big Lottery Fund. By sharing stories in groups or one to one sessions, Reading Friends empowers and engages older people who are vulnerable and isolated, including people with dementia and carers. An evaluation of the test phase showed that a staggering 88% of participants appreciated the increased social contact from reading inspired conversations. The same percentage felt they added purpose to their week. Building on the initial success of the programme, The Reading Agency plans to expand Reading Friends for national rollout in 2020.

Previous research has found that reading groups can provide a route out of social isolation for young mothers, who are particularly susceptible to loneliness, with many saying reading helps to foster conversation. In addition, 95% of people who are blind or partially sighted read at least once a week to alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

As well as revealing how reading can be used as an intervention for loneliness, the report explores how reading can benefit wellbeing and mental health, by regulating mood, exercising the brain, and providing an effective form of support for depression, anxiety and anger issues—for example, through self-help books. The report recommends that the NHS should encourage Clinical Commissioning Groups to invest more in book-based interventions as part of its social prescribing strategy and fund the provision of book based therapies in libraries across the country. Social mobility can also be positively influenced through reading; it breeds important life skills, which translate into greater opportunities in life. The report suggests that, in order to build a more productive, creative and fairer society, access to reading needs to be made universal and common for all.

Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency said: ‘Demos’s predictions for 2030 offer a desperately concerning outlook. If we don’t start to tackle issues of loneliness, mental health and social mobility now, then we will continue to put pressure on our vital workforces such as the care sector and the NHS. The forecasts for the loneliness epidemic are particularly shocking, but reading can be part of the solution: as this report demonstrates, it is not only an essential life skill but has huge power to bring people together to combat loneliness among all age groups. Through reading-based national interventions, we can futureproof our society, and ultimately use reading to help protect younger generations at risk of rising levels of loneliness. We have already seen through our Reading Friends programme that social reading can have profound impact on older people who are often the most vulnerable in society. We hope these benefits will eventually be opened up to everyone.’

Access the report

Supporting you to support others

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Self Care Week starts in just five days. Carrying the strap-line, ‘choose self care for life’, the annual awareness week reminds us that it’s important to make time to look after your own health and wellbeing, as well as your clients’.

We know that being a therapist can be extremely rewarding, yet also physically and emotionally demanding. As Self Care Week approaches (12-18 November), we thought we’d take this opportunity to share some articles that will help to give you a little boost.

Top tips to recharge your batteries

Christopher Byrne, President of the FHT, offers six top tips to help you preserve and boost your energy levels, from staying hydrated throughout the day, to tackling that task you’ve been putting off till ‘tomorrow’…

Looking back, moving forward

Back in 2013, Dr Peter Mackereth, former clinical lead for complementary therapy at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, shared with FHT members the importance of reflective practice and supervision, along with two case studies.

DIY marma facial massage

Mary Dalgleish, Vice President of the FHT, provides an introduction to marma massage, along with a short DIY facial routine that will be sure to make a difference to how you look and feel.

Sauna bathing

Frequent sauna bathing is said to reduce the risk of elevated blood pressure, according to an extensive study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland.

New things this November

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Action for Happiness (AFH) encourages us all to broaden our horizons in the month ahead with its New Things November Action Calendar.

AFH publishes monthly calendars, offering daily affirmations on the theme of the respective month. ‘New Things November’ follows, ‘Optimistic October’, ‘Self-care September’, ‘Altruistic August’, ‘Jump Back July’, ‘Joyful June’, ‘Meaningful May’, ‘Active April’, ‘Mindful March’, ‘Friendly February’ and ‘Happy January.’

Suggestions for this month include the following:

  • Broaden your perspective: read a different paper, magazine or site.
  • Teach yourself a new skill. Origami? First Aid? Meditation?
  • Choose to do something out of your normal comfort zone.
  • Find a new way to help or support a cause you care about.
  • Use one of your strengths in a new or creative way.

Download the calendar

Exercise may reduce blood pressure in stroke patients

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Exercise may help reduce blood pressure in stroke patients, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

In a systematic review and meta-analysis, a team of scientists looked at various medical databases to evaluate the effects of aerobic or resistance exercise interventions in patients after a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (mini-stroke).

Twenty randomised controlled trials were included in the study, which showed that exercise interventions resulted in significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared with the control groups.

Exercise was also associated with reductions in total cholesterol.

Read the study abstract at fht.org.uk/IT-125-exercise-stroke

We hope you enjoyed this article, which was first published in the Summer 2018 issue of International Therapist!

International Therapist is the FHT’s membership magazine. Published on a quarterly basis, it offers a broad range of articles – from aromatherapy and electrolysis, to sports injuries and regulation updates. The magazine is a membership benefit and is not available off-the-shelf or by subscription.

Join today to start receiving the leading magazine for professional therapists.

Therapy dogs for children with speech difficulties shows promising results

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Therapy assisted by a dog could be more effective than standard speech and language therapy for children with communication impairments, suggests a new study published in the journal Anthrozoös.

The study found children with the condition developmental dysphasia, which affects the ability to communicate and form words, were more likely to be able to mimic communicative signals in a therapy session where a dog was present.

Researchers observed that the children in the group with the therapy dog also seemed more motivated and open to communicating. Additionally, the children displayed authentic, natural expressions during their interactions with the dog.

Lead author Kristýna Machová from Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague commented, “The presence of the dog improves the relationship with the therapist, as it distracts from the fear of therapy in children and provides them with a form of support during the practice.”

In this study, researchers at Czech University conducted the first long-term randomized study of its kind, with a control and an experimental group, involving 69 nursery-school children (52 male and 17 female) participants diagnosed with developmental dysphasia. The aim was to understand if undergoing speech therapy accompanied by a dog improved results.

For both groups, the initial examination of each child involved evaluating their skills at baseline, with a follow-up scheduled for 10 months later. The control group received traditional speech therapy, while the experimental group had animal assistance therapy sessions with a female middle-aged Peruvian hairless dog named Agáta.

Despite the promising findings from this study, as this is the first of its kind and there were improvements found in both groups, the authors have stated that further research would be needed to consolidate the findings – especially those involving a larger group of participants.

However, they do agree that there is great potential in the approach to complement and aid the current conventional approach, as canine-assisted therapy has been found to be more effective than more standard forms of delivery in many other disciplines.

Developmental dysphasia, or specific speech impairment, is a common disorder whereby sufferers struggle to formulate words verbally and rank significantly below their non-verbal intellectual level. It is widely thought that the ability to improve communication skills in sufferers would also help to improve quality of life which strongly supports funding more research into this area.

Access the full study

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FHT contributes to fertility feature in Your Healthy Living

YHL OCT 18 COVER_low resPick up the October issue of Your Healthy Living magazine to read an article by the FHT on natural ways to boost fertility and support a natural pregnancy.

In the article we look at how to keep a balanced diet during pregnancy, how complementary therapies can help and direct readers to find a suitably qualified therapist on FHT’s Accredited Register, independently approved by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care.

The FHT regularly contributes to national consumer magazines to make the public more aware of our members, the different therapies they offer and the FHT’s Accredited Register.

Your Healthy Living is a free glossy magazine that raises awareness of natural health and is available in independent health stores across the UK.

Read the full article