Lexical markers of cognitive reappraisal, bereavement, and proinflammatory cytokine production

Date
2023
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American Psychological Association
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Objective: The loss of a spouse is considered one of the most significant life change-related stressors. Bereaved spouses have significantly increased risk of chronic inflammation, and ultimately greater morbidity and mortality. High levels of proinflammatory cytokines are related to negative health outcomes. In bereavement, the ability to successfully regulate emotion is a vital skill for healthy coping and may represent a key psychological mechanism accounting for varying degrees of resilience. Psychological distancing is a frequently adaptive emotion regulation strategy in which an individual appraises a negative situation by taking a step back and distancing oneself, and coolly evaluates what is happening. The objective of the present work was to investigate whether psychological distancing, implemented implicitly via natural language use (i.e., linguistic distancing [LD]), is related to inflammation and bereavement-related health indicators. Method: Participants (N = 144) underwent a blood draw for the inflammation assay, completed questionnaire measures evaluating grief symptoms and health, and completed an oral task describing their relationship with their deceased spouse, which was used for the lexical analyses. Results: We found that LD was significantly associated with a panel of a priori proinflammatory stimulated cytokines (TNF-α, IL-6, IFN-γ, IL-17A, and IL-2), bereavement-related health indices, and the relationship between grief symptoms and inflammation varied depending on the participants’ implementation of LD. Conclusions: LD may have a buffering effect for this vulnerable population. This work elucidates novel dependencies among language, emotion, and health. This work identifies resilience factors and probes the translational value of LD.

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Shahane, Anoushka D., Brown, Ryan L., Denny, Bryan T., et al.. "Lexical markers of cognitive reappraisal, bereavement, and proinflammatory cytokine production." Health Psychology, 42, no. 1 (2023) American Psychological Association: 24-32. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0001207.

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