Being dishonest doesn’t just make you a less desirable friend — it could also lead to less desirable health, new research shows.
A small new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association found that making a point to try not to lie is linked with better mental and physical health.
“Recent evidence indicates that Americans average about 11 lies per week. We wanted to find out if living more honestly can actually cause better health,” study researcher Anita E. Kelly, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame, said in a statement. “We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health.”
The study included 110 people (66 percent college students, 34 percent adults from the community) between ages 18 and 71. Half of the study participants were asked to make a conscious effort to stop telling lies, both big and little, for the next 10 weeks, while the other half of the participants weren’t asked to do anything lie-related. Then, every week, the study participants took polygraph tests to see how many lies they told that week, as well as tests of their health.
Study participants in the “no lies” group reported that they succeeded in lying less over the study period by avoiding exaggerations and fake excuses, or by responding to questions where they may have felt tempted to lie with another question, the researchers said.
The researchers found that in the “no lies” group, the fewer lies the study participants told, the better their health. For example, telling fewer white lies was associated with fewer feelings of tension or melancholy, as well as fewer health problems like headaches and sore throats, the researchers found.
And overall, telling fewer lies over the study period was linked with feeling more honest and having improved relationships.
So if being honest is linked with so many benefits, why do we fib in the first place?
LiveScience reported that lying helps us protect our self-esteem and image.
And we lie a lot — in a Journal of Basic and Applied Psychology study, researchers found that in just a 10-minute conversation, three out of five people will say at least one lie, LiveScience reported.
And apparently, we are more likely to lie when speaking aloud, instead of text messaging — a study from the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research showed that people are more likely to give honest answers in a text message than when answering aloud.