Storytelling, Like A Drug, Can Improve Your Health

A new study suggests that stories have real healing power

As journalists, we sometimes wonder whether there’s anybody out there listening to the stories we tell, and even if they are, what real impact we can possibly have. (These questions tend to come up late at night, after a week-long blogging daze, excessive chauffeuring of the kids and falling on ice several times.)

And then, amidst all of this doubt, a study appears showing that storytelling can actually heal the sick. Not just make them feel warmer and cozier, but measureably improve their health.

Dr. Pauline Chen, writing for The New York Times reports:

The Annals of Internal Medicine has published the results of a provocative new trial examining the effects of storytelling on patients with high blood pressure. And it appears that at least for one group of patients, listening to personal narratives helped control high blood pressure as effectively as the addition of more medications.

This is what make pieces like these interviews by Dr. Annie Brewster so important, for instance this one with a mother battling colorectal cancer or this one with a 19-year-old bulimic.

As one reader commented: “You are so courageous and truly beautiful for eloquently recounting your story. By speaking out you will help others overcome their self hatred and addiction.” And another wrote: “I knew some of the data about eating disorders. Hearing a human voice makes all the difference.”