VUB time study shows people spend up to two hours more a week reading during lockdown.
At the end of March, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel research group TOR and hbits, a VUB spin-off, began a time-use study (www.everydaylife.eu) to investigate what people’s daily lives look like under the coronavirus measures. Their research shows that people (re)started many hobbies, spent more time with children and partners and read a lot more. “During the lockdown, we see an increase in both the percentage of readers – more than 20% higher – and in the length of time they spend reading – two hours more per week,” says professor of sociology Ignace Glorieux. “It is also striking that there is not so much difference between people with higher and lower education levels. There are slightly more higher educated people who read – 83% versus 79% lower educated – but those with lower levels of education spend a little longer reading: 7 hours 6 minutes versus 6 hours 47 minutes.”
During the study, 343 people kept a diary for a week in which they wrote down in detail what they did and how often. The results were compared with earlier research on time use carried out by TOR in 2013. Participants were asked to state whether they had completed higher education. The results show that during the lockdown, there was an increase in reading both books and newspapers and magazines.
- In 2013, more than 40% of people read newspapers and magazines. During the lockdown this increased to 65%.
- About two-thirds of both groups – higher and lower education – read newspapers and magazines; lower educated people spend longer reading newspapers and magazines (4:37) than higher educated people (3:33).
- In 2013, those with lower education levels also read newspapers and magazines for slightly longer, but the difference was much less pronounced.
Reading books has also increased significantly during the lockdown.
- In 2013, slightly less than one in three read books; this has increased to more than one in two, and the length of time spent reading has increased from 3:31 to 5:51 a week.
- Higher educated people read books more often (56%) than lower educated people (45%), and for slightly longer (5:54 compared to 5:30).
The table below shows figures on reading as measured in participants’ diaries. The data marked Corona were collected from mid-March to mid-May 2020; the figures marked TOR13 were collected in 2013. While the methodology is very similar, the samples are not. For TOR13, a random sample of people from Flanders aged 18 and over was invited to participate; in the Corona survey, respondents were recruited via various media.
Explanation of tables: a distinction was made between reading books (fiction and non-fiction, print and digital) and other publications (mainly newspapers and magazines, but also advertising magazines, websites, etc, both print and digital). Total reading represents all reading material: books, newspapers, magazines, etc.
Furthermore, a distinction was made between the duration per respondent, i.e. the time spent reading across all respondents. Non-readers are given the value 0 because they did not spend any time reading during the week they recorded their activities. The participation rate reflects the percentage of readers (the percentage that read during that week). The duration per participant reflects the average time that readers spend on reading per week.
The results are comparable to research results in Great Britain: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/may/15/research-reading-books-surged-lockdown-thrillers-crime .