Honesty may boost your health, suggests a study that found telling fewer lies benefits people physically and mentally.
Each week for 10 weeks, 110 people ages 18-71 took a lie detector test and completed health and relationship measures assessing the number of major and minor lies they told that week, says lead author Anita Kelly, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She presented findings at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, which ended Sunday.
"When they went up in their lies, their health went down," Kelly says. "When their lies went down, their health improved."
Researchers instructed half the participants to "refrain from telling any lies for any reason to anyone." The other half got no such instructions.
The link between less lying and improved health was significantly stronger for participants in the no-lie group. When they told three fewer minor lies than in other weeks, for example, they had an average of four fewer mental-health complaints, such as feeling tense or melancholy, and three fewer physical complaints, such as sore throats or headaches.
Linda Stroh, a professor emeritus of organizational behavior at Loyola University in Chicago, says the findings are consistent with her research on trust. "When you find that you don't lie, you have less stress," she says. "Being very conflicted adds an inordinate amount of stress to your life."
Research has suggested Americans average 11 lies a week. Kelly says the no-lie group was down to one lie, on average, a week. For both groups, when participants lied less in a given week, they reported that their physical and mental health was significantly better that week.
"It's certainly a worthy goal to have people be more genuine and interact with others in a more honest way," says psychologist Robert Feldman of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. "That would be ultimately beneficial. I'm a little skeptical that it makes us all healthier, but it may make us healthier in a psychological way."
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PUBDATE = 08/06/2012
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