Petrie et al. (2004) Effect of Written Emotional Expression on Immune Function in Patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection: A Randomized Trial

literature type:

journal article


Keith J. Petrie, Iris Fontanilla, Mark G. Thomas, Roger J. Booth, and James W. Pennebaker. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2004; Vol. 66, No. 2: pp 272-275.


To determine whether writing about emotional topics compared with writing about neutral topics could affect CD4
lymphocyte count and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) viral load among HIV-infected patients. Methods: Thirty-seven HIV-infected patients were randomly allocated to 2 writing conditions focusing on emotional or control topics. Participants wrote for 4 days, 30 minutes per day. The CD4 lymphocyte count and HIV viral load were measured at baseline and at 2 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after writing.

The emotional writing participants rated their essays as more personal, valuable, and emotional than those in the control condition. Relative to the drop in HIV viral load, CD4 lymphocyte counts increased after the intervention for participants in the emotional writing condition compared with control writing participants.

The results are consistent with those of previous studies using emotional writing in other patient groups. Based on the self-reports of the value of writing and the preliminary laboratory findings, the results suggest that emotional writing may provide benefit for patients with HIV infection. Key words: HIV infection, disclosure, emotional writing, HIV viral load, CD4 lymphocyte count.


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