Culture and the health benefits of expressive writing

Eric D. Knowles, Jessica R. Wearing, Belinda Campos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Expressive writing, in which individuals put their thoughts and feelings about traumatic events into words, can benefit physical health by fostering insight into the personal meaning of stressful experiences. The authors predicted that expressive writing would neither increase insight nor reduce symptoms of illness among Asian Americans, whose culture deemphasizes the act of verbalization in meaning making. In the present study, European and Asian American participants were randomly assigned to write about either their worst traumas or trivial topics on each of 4 consecutive days. Illness symptoms were assessed immediately before and 1 month after the writing sessions. European Americans who wrote about trauma increased their use of insight words over the four sessions and reported fewer illness symptoms a month later. However, neither effect obtained for Asian Americans. The cultural difference in health outcomes was mediated by European Americans' greater tendency to glean insight from the task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)408-415
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Culture
  • Culture and cognition
  • Ethnicity
  • Health
  • Identity
  • Stress and coping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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