Blogging does a body good

Earlier this year, the New York Times published a trend article on how some bloggers are dropping dead. Not even two months later, the Scientific American says blogging can be therapeutic. OK, which one is it guys?

Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.

Scientists now hope to explore the neurological underpinnings at play, especially considering the explosion of blogs. According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window through which to view blogging. As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining, which acts as a “placebo for getting satisfied,” Flaherty says. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly.

The study makes sense, since we all seem to feel better after unloading a little bit, whether it be to friends or on our respective blogs. What I’d be interested to find out is the difference between writing a blog that only the author has access to versus a blog that anyone can stumble upon. I suspect that having a public blog accessible to anyone can have a bigger benefit, since strangers can chime in, give advice, sympathize, etc. Of course, strangers stumbling on a blog also can snipe and be snarky. I guess it depends.