The words people use in disclosing a trauma were hypothesized to predict improvements in mental and physical health in 2 studies. The first study reanalyzed data from 6 previous experiments in which language variables served as predictors of health. Results from 177 participants in previous writing studies showed that increased use of words associated with insightful and causal thinking was linked to improved physical but not mental health. Higher use of positive relative to negative emotion words was also associated with better health. An empirical measure that was derived from these data correlated with subsequent distress ratings. The second study tested these models on interview trans of 30 men who had lost their partners to AIDS. Cognitive change and empirical models predicted postbereavement distress at 1 year. Implications of using computer-based text analyses in the study of narratives are discussed.
Pennebaker, J. W., Mayne, T. J., & Francis, M. E. (1997). Linguistic predictors of adaptive bereavement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(4), 863-871.