Monday, March 12, 2012

Mental Health Mail

Two recent studies appear to indicate that writing letters can have a profound effect on the mental well-being of both senders and recievers.

Steve Toepfer, associate professor in Human Development and Family Studies at Kent State University, has always been interested in the power of writing.

His latest research examined the effects of writing letters of gratitude. A sample of 219 undergraduate students who ranged in age from 18 to 65, filled out a battery of questionnaires on three primary qualities of well-being: happiness (positive affect), life satisfaction (cognitive evaluation) and depression (negative affect). They returned to the research lab three more times about a week apart. The experimental group wrote a letter of gratitude each time while the control group did not.

Results show that gratitude appears to be a powerful resource that can produce positive effects. As a tool for mining that resource, writing letters also has a cumulative effect. If you write over time, you’ll feel happier, you’ll feel more satisfied, and if you’re suffering from depressive symptoms, your symptoms will decrease. For the group that did not write letters but filled out the questionnaires, their well-being did not change.

To read the online article from the Journal of Happiness Studies, visit

Benjamin Loew, a graduate research assistant in the psychology department at the University of Denver, co-authored the results of a recent study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

A research team surveyed 193 married Army soldiers at Fort Campbell, KY, who had returned in the past year from an overseas tour that included combat. They evaluated each soldier for PTSD symptoms, their exposure to combat and their marital satisfaction. They also quizzed each soldier on the frequency and types of communication they had received from home while they were deployed.

They found that happily married soldiers who received frequent communication that the team described as delayed - written communication and care packages - had fewer PTSD symptoms than those who'd received more instant communications, such as phone calls, video chats and instant messages.

To read a summary on the U.S. News & World Report Health Day webpage, visit

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