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Examining the effects of a Daily Writing Intervention on Perceived Social Support and Depressive Symptoms



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Clinical depression is an illness that affects millions of people worldwide (Kessler et al., 2003; Weissman et al., 1996). It accounts for a large portion of health burden worldwide and greatly impacts the lives of many individuals, both directly and indirectly. Due to its widespread prevalence and large, negative impact, there has been much research examining its causes, as well as viable treatment options. It has been demonstrated that one important factor related to depressive symptomatology is low perceptions of social support (e.g., Grav, Hellèzen, Romild, & Stordal, 2011; Lakey, Drew, & Sirl, 1999). According to Coyne’s (1967a) interpersonal theory of depression, individuals with depression tend to view themselves as having little social support, which results in excessive reassurance seeking behaviours. This means that they excessively seek reassurance from others about whether they care for them or not. At the same time, individuals with depressive symptoms tend to view the reassurance that they receive as insincere. The theory also proposes that individuals with depression are then likely to be rejected by important others, which may lead to actual decreases in available social support. Although there has been an abundant amount of research on treatment options for depression, national and international surveys have shown that only a small proportion of individuals with depressive symptoms actually seek or receive treatment for their symptoms (e.g., Layous, Chancellor, Lyubomirsky, Wang, & Doriaswamy, 2011). Furthermore, most treatments are aimed at addressing depressive symptoms rather than specific vulnerability factors, such as perceived social support. Such interventions might be helpful in the absence of clinical levels of depressive symptoms. Thus, the studies in this dissertation aimed to examine an alternative or supplementary intervention. Specifically, the intervention was designed to increase perceptions of social support by having individuals write about instances of received social support on a daily basis for four days. This intervention was delivered in an online format, which allows for easy access for individuals interested in using this intervention in the future. This dissertation project includes one quantitative and one qualitative study to examine the intervention in two samples of undergraduate students. The purpose of these two studies was to help to establish a base line of evidence to help determine if the writing intervention is a viable option for the relief of depressive symptoms, and to conduct an initial examination of the possible process of effectiveness of this intervention.



Depression, Expressive Writing, Perceived Social Support



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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