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Do good stories produce good health?

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Abstract

There is a culturally-held belief that good narratives are associated with good mental or physical health. Scores of studies have demonstrated that writing about emotional upheavals can have salutary health effects. Despite the writing-health relationship, there is scant evidence that expressive writing samples that are judged to be good narratives are themselves linked to health change. Across multiple studies, linguistic features of essays have been empirically linked to health changes. For example, use of positive emotions, increasing use of causal and other cognitive words, and shifts in pronoun use are correlated with fewer physician visits. These language markers, however, are not strongly related to the quality of narrative. Whereas most research has been conducted with English-speaking samples, new analytic methods suggest that many of the language findings can be exported to other languages and cultures. Implications for our understanding narrative, language, and culture within the context of new language analytic methods are discussed.

References

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