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Expressive Writing and Health

  • By: David M. Keating & Stephen A. Rains
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Scholarship on expressive writing focuses on how writing about a significant life event such as illness can affect one's physical and psychological health. The basic idea behind the expressive writing paradigm is that by journaling one's experiences with a stressor, one can enhance one's ability to cope with those experiences. In turn, this improvement in one's coping resources should foster beneficial health outcomes. There is evidence to suggest that expressive writing results in positive outcomes. As such, this paradigm holds implications for health practitioners and researchers alike.

The first expressive writing study, conducted by James Pennebaker more than a quarter century ago, involved asking undergraduate students to write either about a trivial topic, such as their living room, or about some traumatic event they had experienced. ...

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