Emotion is why radio still packs a punch
The connection we have with radio is primal, which is why it is better for our brains than Twitter or TV. By Bridget Angear
Ilove radio. It really does enrich my life by informing, educating and entertaining me in equal measure. Radio is the medium I spend most time with. I couldn’t bear to live without it. And it’s not just me. The latest Rajar figures show radio listening at record levels. More than 90% of the UK population tunes in regularly, with the average listener catching 21.5 hours of live radio every week. And Radiocentre’s latest data suggests that 35 million adults – more than half of the UK’S population – listen to 13 hours or more of radio every week, which is more than double the time spent on Facebook and Twitter combined. Not only that, there’s evidence that radio boosts people’s happiness, energy and wellbeing more than any other medium. A UK study of 1,000 people conducted in 2011 by the Radio Advertising Bureau (now part of Radiocentre) found that radio is a kind of “lifestyle support system”, which helps people feel better as they go about their day. The survey’s participants claimed to experience “peaks and troughs” while consuming TV and online media but said radio provided a “consistent environment, themed and shaped” to suit their needs at any given moment. After all, there’s more chance of finding something on the radio that feels tailored specifically to your tastes than on TV – few people retune their radios at the rate they flick through TV channels. It’s also perfect when you’re doing other things. The study found radio improved people’s daily activities, such as cleaning the house or getting ready to go out. Many respondents listened to the radio while they were online. A study by Susan Hallam of the University of London’s Institute of Education found that background music makes a massive impact on our mental wellbeing because it has such a powerful effect on our moods and emotions. There’s even a station dedicated to help you sleep – New Zealand’s Sleep Radio. And there’s new research that states that, in our current era of fake news and “alternative truth”, radio is more trusted than online sources of information. Yet in all today’s conversations about the media, good and bad, there is frequently silence when it comes to radio – perhaps because it’s seen as an “old” medium. But I think pitting radio against social media does not play to its strengths – radio is a more emotional medium than its rivals. Aural storytelling and music are two of the most ancient forms of human communication. The connection we have with radio is a primal thing and that’s why, when it comes to wellbeing, I believe radio is better for our brains than Twitter or TV. Radio doesn’t need to shout to get your attention. Plus it’s truly a medium that works any time, any place, anywhere – especially since the advent of digital. In a world where people are looking for happiness, truth, authenticity and, of course, education and entertainment, it’s no surprise to see radio’s current resurgence. It’s truly the medium of the people. So go ahead – put the radio on and put a smile on your face.