The benefits of expressive writing on sleep difficulty and appearance concerns for college women.

Danielle Arigo, Joshua M. Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The college years represent an important developmental period in the lives of young women, who report health-related difficulties such as sleep disturbance and body/eating concerns. This study explored whether expressive writing (EW) can decrease health-relevant complaints among college women. College females (n = 111) were randomised into an EW condition (writing about body concerns) or a control writing condition and completed three 15-min writing sessions. Results indicate that participants in the EW condition reported less sleep difficulty and less body-focused upward social comparison at 8-week follow-up, relative to control participants. For individuals who reported higher perceived stress at baseline, the EW condition resulted in less eating disturbance and less social comparison, relative to the control condition. The effect of EW on eating disturbance for those who were high in stress was partially mediated by the change in upward social comparisons focused on one's body. These findings suggest that EW about body image and appearance concerns may positively influence the trajectory of risk for, or resilience against, future complications as a result of sleep difficulty, eating disturbance and body dissatisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-226
Number of pages17
JournalPsychology & health
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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