A Meta-Analysis of Expressive Writing on Positive Psychology Variables and Traumatic Stress
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Description: Emotional expression has been shown to be benficial for promoting both positive psychological and physical health outcomes. Unfortunately, inhibiting emotions can lead to impairments in physical and psychological health. James Pennebaker showed that expressive writing is an effective form of emotional expression, and he and others have used expressive writing as an experimental manipulation to gauge its effectiveness in treating a wide variety of health-related and psychological outcomes. While many studies have been conducted that examine the effectiveness of expressive writing across such outcomes, a considerable amount of these studies tend to neglect necessary considerations such as power and meaningfulness of respective effect sizes. Four previous meta-analyses have been conducted that examine expressive writing's affect on psychological outcomes, however, these studies focus on the experimental versus control group effect size. Thus, our meta-analysis sought to examine the effectiveness of an expressive writing intervention on only the experimental conditions in studies measuring posttraumatic growth, posttraumatic stress, and quality of life using random effects models. Results indicated a small overall effect size for posttraumatic stress and negligible to small effect sizes for posttraumatic growth and quality of life. Implications for future research design and interpretation of published research are discussed.