Expressive Writing and its Effects on Blood Pressure and Self-Reported Stress

Ganir, Ronelyn
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
College students experience high levels of psychological stress, which may be accompanied by physiological stress such as high blood pressure. Expressive Writing (EW), an intervention developed by Pennebaker (1996), has been shown to alleviate stress and blood pressure in white college students. The purpose of this study was to examine whether EW is effective in an ethnically diverse student population. Thirty-four undergraduate students (35% white, 44.1% Asian, 154.7% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 2% Hispanic/Latino) completed pre-post measures of stress and blood pressure. Of these, 15 completed an online EW intervention for 20 minutes, and 19 spent an equivalent amount of time surfing the internet and then writing a short paragraph about websites they visited. Stress was measured by self-report and blood pressure were measured with an automatic blood pressure monitor. No significant differences on stress or blood pressure were found between EW group and control group. However, both showed significantly reduced diastolic blood pressure (p < .02) after the intervention. Pre-post differences in reactions to stress approached significance (p < .06). These findings suggest that writing itself, not specifically EW, may be helpful in reducing college student populations.
expressive writing, stress, blood pressure, college students
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