Benefit Finding and Resiliency in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey and Cancer



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Adverse life events such as cancer or exposure to a hurricane have profound and lasting impacts on the individual. The psychological and social costs of undergoing such events can be devastating. While many individuals report adverse psychological effects in response to these adverse life events, some report positive psychological growth and adaptive responses, such as proactive attempts to process the experience. Benefit finding, or finding the benefits from adversity, is a potentially important mechanism in helping relieve the impact of these events on psychological health. However, little is known about the relationship between benefit finding and physiological health. Benefit finding may be particularly relevant to writing interventions, which have been effective in improving psychological and physical health among individuals who have undergone adversity. The current paper reviews two studies, (1) one that tests the efficacy of a writing intervention for those exposed to Hurricane Harvey and the role of benefit finding as a mediator and moderator, and (2) another examining the relationship between benefit finding and cortisol profiles of Chinese American breast cancer survivors. In Study 1, participants completed baseline assessments and one writing session. Participants were randomized to either an emotional disclosure group, gratitude writing group, choice of writing prompt, or to a control group and completed one-week, one-month, and four-month follow-up assessments. Analyses were conducted using multilevel modeling. Those in the choice of writing prompt group reported significant improvement in their satisfaction with life, over time, compared to the control group. No support was found for positive or negative affect as mediators and benefit finding and hurricane exposure as moderators. The lack of evidence supporting the hypotheses, specifically, the mediators and moderators, was largely due to the study’s high attrition rate which rendered not enough power to sufficiently detect an effect. Nevertheless, the results are discussed in the context of existing expressive writing theories and recommendations are provided for future studies. In Study 2, we sought to explore the relationship between benefit finding and cortisol markers among cancer survivors. No support was found for the hypotheses that benefit finding would be positively related to cortisol indices. Alternate explanations will be provided to explain the null findings. There were some notable strengths including the sample size and number of days sampled. This is the first study examining the link between benefit finding and diurnal cortisol among minority cancer survivors. The findings of these studies add to the research on writing interventions and benefit finding, and underscores the need for further research to examine the effects of benefit finding on psychological and physical health.



post-traumatic growth, benefit finding, expressive writing, intervention, writing interventions, cancer survivorship, hurricane harvey, health psychology