Living in a Notification Nation: constant smartphone distractions prevent Brits from picking up a book

23 April 2019

Large reading at royal mail depot in bradford. photo   the reading agency and justin sutcliffe.

• New survey results from national charity The Reading Agency, to mark World Book Night, reveal that two-thirds (66%) of the nation would spend more time reading if they spent less time scrolling
• The Notification Nation is so switched on and connected that it leaves 72% of 16-24-year-olds feeling like they lack sufficient self-control because they can’t stop checking their smartphone
• 31% of respondents said constant notifications on their phone stop them reading and the same number are distracted by TV
• Over half of us also experience phone fatigue with 54% of respondents struggling to concentrate after spending time scrolling through social media apps and the internet on a smartphone
• To mark World Book Night, The Reading Agency is launching A Chapter A Day, a campaign which encourages people across the UK to re-build their reading habits

A new survey from The Reading Agency has revealed that smartphone habits are preventing individuals from reading books, with 66% saying that they would read more if they spent less time scrolling. 55% of all adults and 72% of young people admit they lack sufficient self-control because they can’t help but continue to check their smartphone when they could be reading, showing we exist in a Notification Nation.

With the number of pressures and distractions we face, it’s no surprise that we don’t have the energy to read. 31% of respondents said constant notifications on their phone stop them reading, while the same number are distracted by boxset bingeing. Other reasons cited include home pressures such as looking after children or housework.

Debbie Hicks, Creative Director at The Reading Agency, said: “Smartphones can help us connect with others and learn more about the world around us. But this survey shows that many of us struggle to switch off and that this can take a toll on our wellbeing. Reading is the perfect way to disconnect. This doesn’t mean abandoning your smartphone – there are lots of brilliant audiobooks and ebooks that can help you escape into another world.”

With one in four admitting they spend at least one day a week scrolling through social media apps and the internet, it’s not surprising to learn that some respondents admit to feeling ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘frustrated’. However, the survey shows social media has the power to make people feel connected, with 34% citing that as a key feeling they experience post-scrolling.

Previous studies have shown that people who read regularly report fewer feelings of stress than non-readers, and experience stronger feelings of relaxation than from watching television or engaging with technology-intensive activities.

This World Book Night, the annual celebration of reading and books which takes place on 23 April, The Reading Agency is launching A Chapter A Day, a challenge which encourages the nation to make time to read a few pages of a book every day, building up to one, or a few chapters. A Chapter A Day hopes to help people across the UK re-build their reading habits.

Debbie Hicks continued: “A Chapter A Day aims to help people either get into reading, or get back into reading and it’s about finding ways to switch off from the distractions of daily life – from smartphone notifications to the TV – when you want to read.”

To take part in A Chapter A Day, head to The Reading Agency’s website:


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