Expressive Writing and Mental Health of College Freshmen at 1-Month Follow-Up: The Role of Forgiveness
Asper, Abigail W
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Higher levels of depression and anxiety are associated with the transition to college, during which students must adapt to an unfamiliar environment while managing new personal and academic responsibilities. The ability to forgive people and situations is crucial to dealing with adverse events like the college transition. We hypothesized that expressive writing (uncensored personal narrative) would help college freshmen make sense of their stress, with intervention efficacy varying with the capacity to forgive. For twenty minutes each day on three consecutive days, students in their first year at the College of Charleston wrote either objectively about a topic of their choice or about their deepest thoughts and feelings upon coming to college. At each visit and at 1-month follow-ups, participants completed self-assessments of their depression and anxiety levels. Symptoms decreased for all participants with time, with differences between experimental and control groups and high and low forgiveness groups. Implications for future research and interventions are discussed.