J Soc Clin Psychol. 2010 May 1;26(3):362-384.
Studies suggest that written emotional disclosure can improve health. Unknown, however, is whether the presence or absence of an audience for one’s disclosure matters, and whether time management control writing has any effects. Undergraduates (N = 165) with unresolved stress were randomized to 1 of 3 groups that wrote for 4 sessions: shared written disclosure (submitted to researchers), private written disclosure (not submitted), or time management control writing; or to a fourth group (no-writing control). At 3-month follow-up, the two control groups were equivalent on outcomes. Both shared and private disclosure resulted in less cognitive intrusion and avoidance than the combined control groups. Yet, shared disclosure reduced depression and interpersonal sensitivity more than either private disclosure or the control groups, and only shared disclosure reduced physical symptoms. Although truly private writing improves cognitive stress effects, shared writing has broader benefits, suggesting that social disclosure for one’s writing matters.