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Asthma and arthritis patients who for several days wrote down their feelings about a stressful event in their lives showed significant improvement in their conditions during a four month study, but a comparison group of patients who wrote instead about their plans for the day improved only half as much, a team of scientists report in the April 15 Journal of the American Medical Association.
"Although it may be difficult to believe that a brief writing task can meaningfully impact health, this study replicates in a chronically ill sample what a burgeoning literature indicates in healthy individuals," say Joshua M. Smyth, PhD, and Arthur A. Stone, PhD, and their colleagues.
Previous studies showed that healthy individuals who perform similar writing tasks report fewer medical symptoms, greater well being, and less use of health care services, but until now, the impact of writing down thoughts and emotions had not been explored in people with chronic health conditions, such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, say Smyth, of the North Dakota State University Department of Psychology, and Stone, of the Department of Psychiatry, State University of New York at Stony Brook.