Expressive writing heals wound more quickly

November 22, 2013

Expressive writing can help people recover more quickly from physical injuries, Medical Daily reported Friday.

Older adults who had undergone a biopsy were able to heal more quickly if they wrote about traumatic events and their emotions relating to those events, than other biopsy patients who simply wrote about daily activities, according to the study.

“Writing about personally distressing events can speed wound healing in [an older] population that is at risk of poor healing,” said Elizabeth Broadbent, senior lecturer in health psychology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, according to Time.

The study reviewed 49 overall healthy adults, ages 64 to 97, who were all assigned to write for 20 minutes per day for three consecutive days. Half of these patients were asked to “write about the most traumatic/upsetting experience in their life, delving into their deepest thoughts, feelings, and emotions about the event, ideally not previously shared with others,” while the other half were required to “write about their daily activities for tomorrow, without mentioning emotions, opinions, or beliefs.”

Two weeks after writing, the researchers took small skin biopsies, which left wounds on all the participants’ arms. These wounds were photographed to mark the healing progress.

Broadbent found that 76 percent of those who had written about difficult events in an expressive manner had fully healed 11 days after the biopsies, while 42 percent of the other group had.

“We think writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress,” Broadbent told Scientific American.