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More people read in Finland – but fewer books per year

Youngsters aged 10-14 still read the most, though that age group shows the sharpest drop in readership.

Finlandia-kilpailuun sisältyy tänä vuonna ensimmäistä kertaa myös yleisöäänestys.
More women than men say they read books regularly in Finland. Image: Shutterstock / Stokketee
Yle News

More people in Finland say they read books now than in the early 2000s, but tend to finish few books per year, says Statistics Finland. According to a survey published on Thursday, reading is still more popular among women, and male readers tend to read male authors.

Reading remains one of the most popular pastimes in Finland, the poll suggests. Nearly 80 percent of respondents over the age of nine say they have read at least one book during the past half year.

Although slightly more people say they read books, the number of titles read has declined. In the 1980s, about a third of Finns said they'd read at least 10 books within the past six months. By 2017-18, when the current data was collected, the proportion of active readers had fallen by more than half, to just 13 percent.

The most avid readers are still those aged 10-14, although that age group shows the sharpest drop in readership – likely due to competition from social media and other electronic offerings.

Youngsters prefer imported literature

Thrillers remain popular, read by more than a quarter of respondents. Biographies and fantasy novels have gained popularity, while fewer now read poetry or war-themed books.

Older readers tend to prefer domestic literature, while younger ones read more books by foreign authors.

More than half of male fiction readers say they mostly read books by male authors, whereas only a quarter of women say they mostly read female authors.

Women read more than men, which has been a clear trend since the 1980s. Nearly 85 percent of female respondents said they had read at least one book in the previous six months, compared to 70 percent of men. Both figures have risen since 2002.

Besides biographies, the most sought-after topics for non-fiction books are food, nutrition, health and exercise. Books related to work and study are also widely read, even though the survey did not include obligatory schoolbooks.

Despite the proliferation of electronics, reading aloud to children remains as common as in the early 2000s. Eight out of 10 adults living with a child or children under the age of seven say they read aloud to them at least once a week, while 43 percent say they do so on a daily basis.

Libraries' role changing

Library visits have become less common among all age groups, especially the young. One reason is that is loan renewals can now be done electronically, rather than having to physically go to the library. And although the range of activities and loans offered by libraries has expanded greatly, borrowing books is still the main reason for visiting.

Regular daily reading of newspapers has dropped since the early 1990s, even when the figures include online editions. Entrepreneurs and upper-level white collar professionals are those who most regularly read newspapers. The lowest readership is among the young, students and the unemployed.

Magazine readership is down, too, again especially among younger people. Middle-aged and older people still read them at the same level as in the 1990s. Magazines are more widely read in the countryside.

Statistics Finland surveyed more than 7,000 people aged 10 and over between late 2017 and early 2018. Most were surveyed online or by mail, while those aged 10-14 and over 75 were interviewed in person.

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