Forty-three women newly diagnosed with breast cancer participated in this study, which examined the role of expressive journal writing characteristics on mood over the course of a 12-week support group. Writing was analyzed using the linguistic inquiry and word count program. Writing characteristics that were examined included: average word count, number of journal entries, positive and negative emotion words, the ratio of positive to negative words, and the use of cognitive mechanism words (i.e. insight and causal words). Regression analyses revealed that increased levels of anxiety and depression, post-intervention, were predicted by the prevalence of negative emotion in writing. Unique variance in mood (anxiety and depression) was accounted for by expression of negative emotion (7 and 6%, respectively). These relationships were significant (p<0.05) and remained significant even after accounting for pre-intervention levels of distress, and for the quantity and frequency of writing. These findings suggest the need for additional research into the naturalistic application of journaling so that appropriate recommendations for writing (e.g. focus, timing, amount) can be offered to patients who might choose to utilize this approach for coping with the stresses of cancer diagnosis and treatment.
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