Finding Positive Meaning and Its Association With Natural Killer Cell Cytotoxicity Among Participants in a Bereavement-Related Disclosure Intervention

University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States
Annals of Behavioral Medicine (Impact Factor: 4.2). 02/2003; 25(2):146-55. DOI: 10.1207/S15324796ABM2502_11
Source: PubMed


This study tested the hypothesis that cognitive processing about a past bereavement would produce increases in goals and priorities indicative of finding positive meaning from the loss. It was further hypothesized that increases in meaning-related goals would be associated with changes in immune function, specifically increased natural killer cell cytotoxicity (NKCC). Cognitive processing was manipulated using written emotional disclosure. Forty-three women who had lost a close relative to breast cancer wrote about the death (cognitive processing/disclosure group) or about nonemotional topics weekly for 4 weeks. Contrary to predictions, written disclosure did not induce changes in meaning-related goals or NK cell parameters. However, women in both experimental groups who reported positive changes in meaning-related goals over the study period also showed increases in NKCC. Results suggest that prioritizing goals emphasizing relationships, personal growth, and striving for meaning in life may have positive biological correlates but that solitary written disclosure may not be sufficient to induce changes in these goals in response to a past bereavement.

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    • "Specifically, researchers found that cognitive processing , to promote positive health effects, needs to be linked to the search for and discovery of meaning (Bower, Kemeny, Taylor, & Fahey, 2003). The positive health effects of meaning making include a protection against anxiety and a reduction of its effects (Davis et al., 2000). "
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    • "In recent years, evidence has linked MIL with a variety of indicators of physical health as well, with several studies reporting a positive relationship between MIL and selfreported general health (Brassai et al. 2012; Krause 2004; Steger et al. 2009). Further, MIL is associated with healthier immune functioning among men with HIV (Bower et al. 2003), more optimal levels of neuroendocrine and cardiovascular markers of health (Bower et al. 2003, Ryff and Singer 2006), slower rates of cognitive decline and Alzheimer disease progression among older adults (Boyle et al. 2010), and better cognitive functioning even in the presence of neurofibrillary tangles (Boyle et al. 2012). Several large-scale longitudinal studies have documented an inverse relationship between MIL and mortality among older adults (Boyle et al. 2009; Krause 2009). "
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