Health Psychol. 2010 Jul;29(4):460-6. doi: 10.1037/a0020153.
Low CA1, Stanton AL, Bower JE, Gyllenhammer L.
To test the effects of emotionally expressive writing in a randomized controlled trial of metastatic breast cancer patients and to determine whether effects of the intervention varied as a function of perceived social support or time since metastatic diagnosis.
Women (N = 62) living with Stage IV breast cancer were randomly assigned to write about cancer-related emotions (EMO; n = 31) or the facts of their diagnosis and treatment (CTL; n = 31). Participants wrote at home for four 20-min sessions within a 3-week interval.
Main Outcome Measures
Depressive symptoms, cancer-related intrusive thoughts, somatic symptoms, and sleep quality at 3 months postintervention.
No significant main effects of experimental condition were observed. A significant condition × social support interaction emerged on intrusive thoughts; EMO writing was associated with reduced intrusive thoughts for women reporting low emotional support (η2 = .15). Significant condition × time since metastatic diagnosis interactions were also observed for somatic symptoms and sleep disturbances. Relative to CTL, EMO participants who were more recently diagnosed had fewer somatic symptoms (η2 = .10), whereas EMO participants with longer diagnosis duration exhibited increases in sleep disturbances (η2 = .09).
Although there was no main effect of expressive writing on health among the current metastatic breast cancer sample, expressive writing may be beneficial for a subset of metastatic patients (including women with low levels of emotional support or who have been recently diagnosed) and contraindicated for others (i.e., those who have been living with the diagnosis for years).
Published in final edited form as:
Psychooncology. 2017 Sep; 26(9): 1361–1368.
Published online 2016 May 3. doi: 10.1002/pon.4148
,1,* Gabriel Lopez
,1 Amy Spelman
,1 Christopher Wood
,2 Surena F. Matin
,2 Nizar M. Tannir
,3 Eric Jonasch
,3 Louis Pisters
,2 Qi Wei
and Lorenzo Cohen1
To identify groups most likely to benefit from an Expressive Writing (EW) intervention, we examined psychosocial variables as intervention moderators. We hypothesized that EW would be particularly effective for participants with high levels of depressive symptoms and social support at study entry.
Patients (n = 277; 60.6% male) with kidney cancer were randomly assigned to either an expressive (EW) or neutral writing (NW) condition. Intervention outcomes included measures of depressive symptoms (CESD), cancer-related symptoms (MDASI), fatigue (BFI), and sleep disturbances (PSQI) assessed at baseline, 1, 4, and 10 months later. Moderators were measured at baseline.
As hypothesized, depressive symptoms and social support moderated intervention efficacy. When examining both moderators simultaneously, EW appeared to be most effective in terms of cancer-related symptoms (p < 0.05) and depressive symptoms (p < 0.01) for participants with elevated depressive symptoms who received high levels of social support at baseline relative to their counterparts in the NW condition. Moreover, participants in EW with high levels of social support at baseline reported lower levels sleep disturbances (p = 0.005) than their counterparts in NW.
Recognition of baseline depressive symptoms and social support as intervention moderators may lead to improved patient selection for EW interventions, as EW may be particularly beneficial regarding QOL outcomes for patients that have social support available including participants with depressive symptoms. EW may not be beneficial, or potentially even contraindicated, for participants lacking social support.
Psychol Health. 2015;30(3):284-300. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2014.971798. Epub 2014 Oct 27.
Lepore SJ1, Revenson TA, Roberts KJ, Pranikoff JR, Davey A.
This randomised trial tested (i) whether a home-based expressive writing (EW) intervention improves quality of life in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) and (ii) whether the intervention is more beneficial for men or for people who feel constrained in disclosing cancer-related concerns and feelings.
Patients treated for CRC were randomised to an EW (n = 101) or control writing (CW; n = 92) group. Assessments were completed at 1 month pre- and post-intervention. Sex and perceived social constraints on disclosure were evaluated as moderators.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:
Primary outcomes were depressive symptoms, sleep problems and quality of life indicators.
Eighty-one per cent of participants completed all writing assignments. Consistent with hypotheses, relative to the CW group, participants in the EW group expressed more negative emotion in writing and rated their writings as more meaningful, personal and emotionally revealing. There were no significant main effects of EW or moderating effects of sex or social constraints on outcomes.
Although EW is feasible to use with persons who have CRC, it was not effective as a stand-alone psychotherapeutic intervention. Neither was it more effective for men nor for people who felt they could not freely disclose cancer-related concerns and feelings.
Health Psychol Rev. 2014;8(3):339-61. doi: 10.1080/17437199.2014.882007. Epub 2014 Feb 18.
Merz EL1, Fox RS, Malcarne VL.
Decades of research have suggested that expressive writing produces physical and psychological benefits in controlled laboratory experiments among healthy college students. This work has been extended to clinical and medical populations, including cancer patients. Although expressive writing could be a promising and inexpensive intervention for this population, the effects have not been systematically examined in oncology samples. A systematic review using PRISMA guidelines was conducted for experimental trials of cancer patients who participated in an expressive writing intervention. PsycINFO and PubMed/Medline were searched for peer-reviewed studies. Thirteen articles met the inclusion/exclusion criteria. Although the majority of the intervention effects were null, there were several main effects for expressive writing on sleep, pain, and general physical and psychological symptoms. Several moderators were identified, suggesting that expressive writing may be more or less beneficial based on individual characteristics such as social constraints. The reviewed studies were limited due to representativeness of the samples, performance, detection and patient-reported outcomes biases, and heterogeneity of the intervention protocol and writing prompts. Future studies with rigorous designs are needed to determine whether expressive writing is therapeutically effective in cancer patients.
Health Psychol. 2002 Nov;21(6):615-9.
de Moor C1, Sterner J, Hall M, Warneke C, Gilani Z, Amato R, Cohen L.
Forty-two patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma who were participating in a Phase II clinical trial were randomly assigned to an expressive writing (EW) or neutral writing (NW) group. Patients in the EW group wrote about their cancer, and patients in the NW group wrote about health behaviors. No statistically significant group differences were found in symptoms of distress, perceived stress, or mood disturbance, except for the Vigor subscale of the Profile of Mood States. However, patients in the EW group reported significantly less sleep disturbance, better sleep quality and sleep duration, and less daytime dysfunction compared with patients in the NW group. The results suggest that EW may have sleep-related health benefits in terminally ill cancer patients.
J Soc Integr Oncol. 2008 Spring;6(2):59-66.
de Moor JS1, Moyé L, Low MD, Rivera E, Singletary SE, Fouladi RT, Cohen L.
This study evaluated whether expressive writing (EW) was an effective stress management intervention for breast cancer patients. Women were recruited at the end of neoadjuvant chemotherapy and assigned to write about their cancer experience (EW group; n = 24) or neutral topics (neutral writing [NW] group; n = 25). Women were asked to write for 20 minutes a day for a total of four writing sessions that were completed over a 7-day period. Participants were reassessed approximately 3 days before and 2 weeks after surgery. The intervention did not significantly decrease women’s distress, perceived stress, sleep disturbance, or pain. There was some evidence that the EW group used more sleep medication at the presurgical assessment than the NW group. Social constraints moderated the effect of the intervention. Among women with high social constraints, the EW group reported lower average daily pain than the NW group. Among women with low social constraints, the EW group reported higher average daily pain than the NW group. EW was not broadly effective as a stress management intervention for women with breast cancer. These data do not support the use of EW as a presurgical mind-body complementary medicine program for this population.
Medical conditions that might benefit from expressive writing programmes
Lung functioning in asthma
Disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis
Pain and physical health in cancer
Immune response in HIV infection
Hospitalisations for cystic fibrosis
Pain intensity in women with chronic pelvic pain
Sleep-onset latency in poor sleepers