Less Lying Linked To Better Health
One of the common behavioral problems spotted in people of different age groups is telling a lie to shun or hide troubles. This can be harmful as research has found that people who live with the feeling of guilt, omit truth and lie are bound to face unpleasant health complications.
A new study done at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, shows how lying affects more than our reputation. The study, titled, 'Science of honesty' claims that people who significantly reduced daily lying could see mental and physical health benefits.
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Researchers conducted the study on 110 males and females. Participants were asked to stop telling major lies or minor lies for 10 weeks. One-half of the participants which was the control group did not receive any instructions about lying. They went to a laboratory each week to complete health and relationship questionnaires and to take a polygraph test assessing the number of major and minor lies they had told that week.
On conducting the test, researchers noticed that the group who stopped lying complained less of headaches, sore throats, tenseness, anxiety and other problems when compared to the controlled group who never received any instructions. The result gathered from this study clearly indicates that non-lying participants had improved close personal relationships and had more smooth social interactions.
This study was presented in the American Psychological Association's annual meeting.
"A reduction in the lies of our participants across the 10 weeks of their participation was associated with better physical and mental health in those same weeks when those individuals had engaged in less lying," said lead author Anita Kelly. "Also, actually inducing people to lie less caused them to see themselves as more honest as compared to the people who were not induced to stop lying. And, getting people to stop lying also strengthens the link between fewer lies and better health to be stronger."
Evidence indicates that Americans average about 11 lies a week. Kelly says the no-lie group participants were down to one lie, on average, per week.
"I think lying can cause a lot of stress for people, contributing to anxiety and even depression," said Dr. Bryan Bruno, acting chairman of the department of Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Lying less is not only good for your relationships, but for yourself as an individual. People might recognize the more devastating impact lying can have on relationships, but probably don't recognize the extent to which it can cause a lot of internal stress."
The research saw that at the end of the 10 week study, some participants had devised a clever way to avoid lying. Kelly noted that some realized they could simply tell the truth about their daily accomplishments rather than exaggerate, while others responded to a troubling question with another question to distract the person. They also stopped making false excuses for running late or failing to finish tasks.
"It's certainly a worthy goal to have people be more honest and 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."