Honesty isn’t just the best policy; new research suggests it may also be the healthiest. Researchers have found strong evidence of links between lying and poor health.
Lying makes nice people feel bad. The guilt feelings and discomfort accompanying even small fibs can cause the same stress reaction as a difficult job or problems in a relationship.
So it’s not surprising that it has the same effect as those stressors: your heart races and your blood pressure goes up. In fact, those are two of the signs polygraphs measure in order to ferret out dishonesty. Over time, that can result in coronary artery disease, stroke, or congestive heart failure.
Unfortunately, the average American tells 11 lies a week. That can add up, particularly since, as a Belgian study in 2010 found, the falsehood habit develops much like any other.
In a different study, earlier this year, researchers asked people to commit to honesty for ten weeks. They shunned lies large and small, and each week completed questionnaires to measure overall health.
“We wanted to find out if living more honestly can actually cause better health,” said lead study author Dr. Anita E. Kelly in a release. “We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health.”
In fact, the health improvement started almost immediately, and continued for the duration of the study. Participants who reduced their lying for just a single week reported fewer mental and even physical ailments and symptoms.
Furthermore, they found not lying easily became normal, and week by week, honesty became easier. Just as the earlier study found that lying becomes a habit, not lying does too. By the midpoint of the study, participants found they were more honest in their day-to-day lives.
And that’s the truth.