Although previous research has found that writing about emotionally difficult events boosts the immune system, little research has been done with populations other than non-Hispanic whites.
“Writing a journal can be therapeutic, but often times we don’t get the empirical evidence to determine whether it’s effective or not,” said University of Houston Assistant Professor, Qian Lu.
Lu’s new study, recently published in Health Psychology, found that regular, expressive writing about one’s deepest fears, emotions, and the benefits of a cancer diagnosis has both short-term and long-term physical and psychological health benefits for Chinese-speaking breast cancer survivors, including decreased fatigue, fewer intrusive thoughts, reduced post-traumatic stress, and increased quality of life.
Key to these results, said Lu, is the writing instruction. Study participants were asked to write for twenty minutes a week for three weeks based on different prompts. Participants reported that they revealed emotions and experiences in their writing that they had not previously told others.
The study also examined how to adapt this writing therapy for minority, cancer-stricken populations who often face additional burdens of stigmatization, shame, cultural beliefs about bearing the burden alone, suppressing emotions, and a lack of trained mental health professionals with cultural and linguistic competency.