Why Do Brief Online Writing Interventions Improve Health? Examining Mediators of Expressive Writing and Self-Affirmation Intervention Efficacy Among Sexual Minority Emerging Adults

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A limited number of studies have examined mechanisms undergirding interventions that mitigate mental health problems or health-risk behaviors that disproportionately burden sexual minorities. A recent trial of expressive writing and self-affirmation writing found that these brief interventions had salubrious effects on mental health and health-risk behaviors; the present research examines the putative mechanisms underlying these effects. Sexual minority emerging adults (N = 108) completed a brief online expressive writing, self-affirmation writing, or neutral control writing intervention and, at baseline and 3-month follow-up, completed measures of mental health, health-risk behaviors, stress, and self-regulation. Expressive writing yielded improvements in mental health and these effects were mediated by reductions in perceived stress. Self-affirmation caused improvements in health-risk behaviors, thoughneither stress nor self-regulation mediated these effects. This finding provides preliminary novel evidence regarding a mechanism underlying a widely used psychological intervention with documented mental health benefits for sexual minorities and other populations disproportionately affected by stress