Findings from a new study published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine suggest writing might be one way of reducing the long-term health risks associated with marital separation and divorce.
More than 100 adults with a recent marital separation were randomly assigned to one of three writing groups. One group focused on traditional expressive writing [EW] on their “strongest and deepest emotions”; (b) narrative EW, in which they created a “coherent and organised narrative” of their separation experience; or (c) an emotionally neutral writing task.
After 7.5 months, participants in the narrative EW group had significantly lower heart rate and higher heart rate variability relative to control participants.
“The results suggest that the ability to create a structured narrative – not just re-experiencing emotions but making meaning out of them – allows people to process their feelings in a more adaptive way, which may in turn help improve their cardiovascular health,” said author, Kyle Bourassa.
The authors said more research is needed into the findings. “These results may suggest one avenue through which the risk for long-term poorer health following divorce is attenuated, though more research is needed to establish whether these differences translate into meaningful clinical outcomes.”