Tell the truth: It's good for your health
Indian Hindu devotees whisper their wishes into the ear of an idol of elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha (Indranil Mukherjee, AFP/Getty Images)
A recent study by the University of Notre Dame shows that when people reduced the number of lies they told in a week, their mental and physical well-being improved significantly.
Researchers Anita Kelly and Lijuan Wang conducted the honesty study over a 10-week period. They sampled 110 people, ranging in age from 18 to 71 years. Most were college students.
About half the participants were told to stop telling major and minor lies for the duration of the study. The other half did not receive any instructions about lying. Both groups were evaluated weekly to measure their health. They also took polygraph tests to ascertain how many lies they had told during that week. The average number of weekly lies per person was 11.
Those who refrained from lying saw immediate health benefits, according to the report.
Kelly told the Notre Dame News that when participants in the no-lie group told three fewer white lies than they did in other weeks, they experienced on average about four fewer mental-health complaints and about three fewer physical complaints. Reducing the number of lies ameliorated the participant's feelings of melancholy and anxiety. It also reduced their complaints of sore throats and headaches.
Those in the control group also experienced fewer mental and physical problems when they decreased the number of weekly lies, according to the study.
Kelly, a psychology professor whose research includes a study of secrets and self-disclosure, found that people could purposefully reduce their everyday lies.
Many of the people in the no-lie group thought of themselves as more honest by the end of the study. That is not surprising — and I hope it's true, for the sake of their health.