September 11, 2004

Personal Blogging, a Health Hazard?

by Andrew Stern · , 5:02 pm

Speaking of NPR, I just learned from one of my favorite radio news sources about some UK research which found that those who keep personal diaries are ruining their health.

[R]egular diarists were more likely than non-diarists to suffer from headaches, sleeplessness, digestive problems and social awkwardness. Their finding challenges assumptions that people find it easier to get over a traumatic event if they write about it.

“We expected diary keepers to have some benefit, or be the same, but they were the worst off,” says Elaine Duncan of the Glasgow Caledonian University. “In fact, you’re probably much better off if you don’t write anything at all,” she adds.

It’s not clear to me if this is causation, or merely correlation — that is, are diarists diarists because they are troubled in the first place? (Well, not all diarists are troubled, of course, at least no more than the rest of us.) But, if keeping a diary is in fact deleterious, I wonder if this also applies to personal blogging — blogs that focus a lot on the writer’s personal life (e.g. 1 2 3 4, versus broader discussion forums like this blog).

Reasons I could imagine these alleged ill-health effects would *not* apply to personal bloggers: unlike traditional diaries, blogs are not private, and therefore the catharsis achieved from writing them may be of a different nature; and many blogs allow comments, which lead them to be more like group therapy than self-analysis.