HIV-positive adults who disclose their deepest emotions in writing report less stress and may have improved immune responses, according to a recent study by U.S. and New Zealand researchers.
Kevin J. Petrie of the University of Auckland and colleagues said a review of studies of writing about emotional topics by patients with various diseases, including arthritis and asthma, showed "consistent and significant improvements in health outcomes after written emotional expression."
The researchers recruited 37 subjects who were randomly assigned to an emotional writing group or to a control group. The emotional writing group members were encouraged to explore deep feelings previously unexpressed. "Subjects were told they could write about HIV-related topics or any other issues of emotional importance to them," the authors noted. The control group participants were asked to write objectively about how they spent their time.
"The CD4-lymphocyte count increased gradually and continuously in the emotional writing group in the six months after the [writing] sessions," the researchers report. No CD4-cell count change was detected in the control group.
The findings are consistent with those of other studies indicating that HIV-positive patients "who don't get to discuss their feelings have a faster decline in their health," the authors concluded.