Study finds expressive writing can help wounds heal faster

May 17, 2017 by Anna Kellett, University of Auckland
Study finds expressive writing can help wounds heal faster
Associate Professor Elizabeth Broadbent with her student, PhD Candidate Hayley Robinson. Credit: University of Auckland

People who wrote emotionally about past stressful events two weeks before having a biopsy had their wound heal faster than people who wrote about factual day to day activities, a study has found.

The study, "The effects of expressive writing before or after punch on ", was published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity.

The research was conducted by Doctoral Candidate Hayley Robinson and Associate Professor Elizabeth Broadbent of the University of Auckland's Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. They were joined by Professor Kavita Vedhara of the University of Nottingham and dermatologist Dr Paul Jarrett of Counties Manukau DHB.

The aim of the study was to investigate whether expressive writing could speed the of punch biopsy if writing was performed either before or after wounds were made compared to writing about neutral topics.

The study recruited 122 participants from Auckland aged between 18 and 55 years that were randomly allocated to one of four groups, expressive writing pre biopsy or expressive writing post biopsy, or control writing pre biopsy, or control writing post biopsy.

The expressive writing groups were asked to write about their "deepest thoughts and feelings about a traumatic, upsetting experience of your entire life". Ideally participants were to write about something they had not discussed in great detail with anyone else.

The control groups were asked to write factually about their daily activities.

A dermatologist performed a 4mm punch biopsy to each participant's inner upper arm.

After 10 days the results showed that 52 percent of the people who had written expressively before the biopsy were healed, while only 27 percent of people who wrote expressively afterward the biopsy had healed.

The results were worse for the two groups that wrote facts without emotion. Only 15 percent in the controlled writing before the biopsy had healed. And for those who wrote about the topic after the biopsy, only 23 percent had healed.

Hayley says the results suggest that expressive writing has its greatest effects when it occurs prior to an acute wound.

"This is because the writing initially makes you feel worse before you feel better," she says.

"So ideally you have finished writing and are starting to feel better during the period when your wound is healing. The results are important because they suggest that when you write is important, not just what you write about.

"Future research needs to look at the effects of expressive writing on the healing of chronic wounds, when writing can only be done after the wound has occurred," Dr Broadbent says.

Explore further: Narrative journaling may help heart health post-divorce

More information: Hayley Robinson et al. The effects of expressive writing before or after punch biopsy on wound healing, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2016.11.025

Related Stories

Narrative journaling may help heart health post-divorce

May 8, 2017
Journaling after divorce could improve your cardiovascular health—but only if you do it in a way that tells a story, new University of Arizona research suggests.

Expressive writing shows some benefits for returning vets

November 4, 2015
In a study of nearly 1,300 returning veterans reporting reintegration problems, those who completed online expressive-writing sessions showed more improvements than peers who had not written at all or who had engaged only ...

Post-divorce journaling may hinder healing for some, study finds

November 29, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—For those searching for deeper meaning in a failed marriage, writing about their feelings soon after divorce may lead to greater emotional distress, according to new research.

Surveillance biopsy timing not tied to reclassification

April 22, 2017
(HealthDay)—Timing of the first active surveillance biopsy is not associated with increased adverse reclassification of prostate cancer, according to a study published in the April issue of The Journal of Urology.

Increase in prostate needle biopsy-linked infection in N.Y.

April 18, 2017
(HealthDay)—Infectious complications after prostate needle biopsy increased from 2011 to 2014 across New York State, according to a study published in the April issue of The Journal of Urology.

Recommended for you

Neurons with good housekeeping are protected from Alzheimer's

December 17, 2018
Some neurons in the brain protect themselves from Alzheimer's with a cellular cleaning system that sweeps away toxic proteins associated with the disease, according to a new study from Columbia University and the University ...

Measuring speed of mental replay of movies gives new insight into accessing memories

December 17, 2018
Researchers have discovered that 'fully detailed' memories are stored in the /, but people access this information at different speeds and levels of detail, with people accessing memories 'forward' that is recalling older ...

Gently stroking babies before medical procedures may reduce pain processing

December 17, 2018
Researchers found that gently stroking a baby seems to reduce activity in the infant brain associated with painful experiences. Their results, appearing December 17 in the journal Current Biology, suggest that lightly brushing ...

Tuning arousal to boost information transmission in the brain

December 17, 2018
Columbia neural engineers discover a mechanism by which the locus coeruleus modulates information processing in the thalamus; their findings of how sensory information is encoded in the healthy brain may lead to new treatments ...

Discovery of novel mechanisms that cause migraines

December 17, 2018
Researchers at CNRS, Université Côte d'Azur and Inserm have demonstrated a new mechanism related to the onset of migraine. They found how a mutation that causes dysfunction in a protein which inhibits neuronal electrical ...

Growing a brain: Two-step control mechanism identified in mouse stem cells

December 17, 2018
Scientists have identified two distinct control mechanisms in the developmental transition of undifferentiated stem cells into healthy brain cells. This fundamental research using mice may inform regenerative medicine treatments ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.