If you’re a straight shooter in your personal life, it may be benefiting your health, according to new research from the University of Notre Dame that suggests honest people are healthier both physically and mentally than those who fudge the truth.
According to previous research, Americans tell an average of 11 lies each week. To test how this was affecting our nation’s health, researchers issued 110 participants (ages 18-71) a lie detector test as well as a health and relationship measure to assess the number of lies they told in a week.
As reported by USA Today, half of the participants were asked to “refrain from telling any lies for any reason to anyone.” Participants were, however, permitted to omit truths, refuse to answer questions, and keep secrets. But they couldn’t say anything that they knew to be false. The other half of the group was given no such instructions.
At the end of the 10-week study, researchers found that the link between less lying and improved health was much stronger for those in the “no-lie” group. Furthermore, when those in this group told three fewer ‘minor lies‘ than in other weeks, they experienced an average of four fewer mental-health complaints and three fewer physical ailments as a result; mental complaints defined as ‘feeling tense or melancholy,’ and physical complaints including ‘sore throats and headaches.’
The findings, which were presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, suggested that when people lie more their health goes down. And when they lie less, their health improves.
Professor emeritus of organizational behavior at Loyola University, Linda Stroh, contends that this is because lies inevitably lead to stress. “When you find that you don’t lie, you have less stress,” she said. “Being very conflicted adds an inordinate amount of stress to your life.”
In response to the study’s findings, psychologist Robert Feldman of the University of Massachusetts told USA Today that he believes telling less lies couldn’t hurt. “It’s certainly worth a goal to have people be more honest and more genuine and interact with others in a more honest way,” he said. “That would be ultimately beneficial. I’m a little skeptical that it makes us all healthier, but it makes us healthier in a psychological way.”
I’ve found this true in my own life; the less I lie, the less I have to cover up. So if the research is accurate, I’ll be paying even closer attention to what comes out of my mouth, especially it’s beneficial to my health.