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Could writing about life improve seniors' health?

As people advance in age, they gain more opportunities to experience significant life events. Whether the occurrences are positive or negative, there are a lot of benefits to sharing these events with others. Not only can they provide entertainment or education for the audience, they may also grant relief to the people telling the story. Many seniors are realizing the benefits of making their stories heard by writing memoirs, The New York Times reported.

Seniors tackle memoir 
Even seniors who wouldn't consider themselves writers have plenty of chances to start writing their life's story. Online classes, adult education classes and even bookstores may provide ways for older adults to learn how to write their memoirs. Joy Myers, a psychologist who also teachers memoir writing courses and formed the National Association of Memoir Writers, told the Times that most of the people who sign up for her classes are seniors. Memoirs can be among the most popular books on the market, but not every one is written with the bestseller list in mind. According to the Times, many older adults choose to write their memoirs to leave a form of family history behind for loved ones.

Journaling for health 
Relatives and other readers aren't the only ones who can benefit when seniors write their memoirs, however. The exercise can be just as enjoyable for writers, and may even support their health. According to PsychCentral, keeping a journal can boost well-being in a number of ways. Perhaps the most obvious is in allowing writers to get their thoughts in order. People who write down the events of their lives are better able to make sense of them and the emotions that result. With that clarity may come a sense of calm. The source reported that writing frequently can help relieve stress and allow people to see things from others' perspectives, making them more effective at solving conflicts.

Do writers heal faster? 
Writing's benefits could range from the emotional to the concrete. A study led by Elizabeth Broadbent of the University of Auckland found that writing about traumatic events may even help physical wounds heal faster, Time reported. For the study, seniors who were soon to undergo biopsies were assigned to write for 20 minutes each day for three days, either on a traumatic event from their past or a benign subject, such as plans for the next day. The former group was advised to be as open as possible, while the latter was asked to avoid emotional subjects.

The test was performed two weeks before the scheduled biopsy. Following the procedure, photographs taken every three to five days tracked each participants' healing process. Those who had written about painful events healed more quickly, with three-quarters showing fully healed wounds within 11 days of the procedure, compared to 46 percent of the second group.

How writing may help 
Researchers couldn't pinpoint exactly what led to the faster recovery, but a few possible factors stood out, according to Time. For one, those who wrote about traumatic events often got more sleep than those who kept more mundane journals. This may have promoted higher levels of growth hormone, which can contribute to healing, researchers said.

Although the Auckland study didn't find evidence that diarists stress levels were reduced, co-author Heidi Koschwanez told Time that it may have still been a factor. Lower stress hormone levels are known to aid healing, and writing has previously been associated with reduced anxiety. Koschwanez suggested that the team's anxiety questionnaire may have been asking the wrong questions. While writing may not provide the same benefits to everyone, it could be a useful addition to a traditional wound care regimen or help support mental well-being.

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