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Structured writing about current stressors: The benefits of developing plans

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To investigate the health outcomes of structured writing about everyday stressors, 64 undergraduates selected a stressful event with which they were currently dealing, and wrote about it at home on three occasions in 1 week. Two forms of writing were manipulated: expressive writing - exploring one's thoughts and feelings about the stressor; and planful writing - developing plans to deal with the problem. Appraisals of control and efficacy were investigated as mediators. Expressive writing yielded no health benefits and did not affect appraisals, but planful writing did. Whereas non-planners' levels of negative affect (NA) remained stable across writing days, planners initially experienced higher NA, but their NA decreased significantly across writing days. Planful writers, relative to non-planners, felt less control over their emotions and less confidence in resolving their problem, but it was non-planners who experienced an increase in stress-related symptoms following writing. Appraisals did not mediate the physical health outcomes.
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Keywords: Writing; expressive writing; health; physical symptoms; planful writing; problem-focused coping

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Psychology Program, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Canada V2N 4Z9

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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