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Lying May Be Bad For Your Health

Abe Lincoln

Dr. Chauncey Crandall, along with many other health professionals, have observed throughout their medical careers that various individuals with dishonest lifestyles generally possess a wide array of health problems. The University of Notre Dame has released a medical study that just might explain this phenomenon:

Telling lies, even little white lies, could take a toll on your health, a new study suggests.

University of Notre Dame researchers conducted an experiment in which they asked people to stop telling lies for 10 weeks. In that time, the participants’ physical and mental health improved – and they said their relationships and social interactions were better.

The researchers presented their findings Saturday at the American Psychological Associations’ annual convention.

“We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health,” says lead author Anita Kelly in a news release. She is a Notre Dame psychology professor whose research includes the study of secrets and self-disclosure.

How common is lying? Kelly says Americans tell an average of 11 lies per week.

To test what happens when people are more truthful, Kelly and co-author Lijuan Wang conducted an experiment with 110 participants. About half were told to stop telling major and minor lies. The other half, which served as a control group, was not given any instructions about lying.

Honest Abe Lincoln

“Honest Abe” Lincoln always said honesty was the best policy; today, researchers say it may be best for your health too.

Every week for 10 weeks, the participants came in for a health assessment and a polygraph test to determine how many lies they had told.

For both groups, telling fewer lies in a given week was linked with better health.

But the link was significantly stronger for those consciously trying to avoid lies, the researchers said. They had fewer physical complaints, such as sore throats and headaches, and fewer mental health complaints, such as feeling tense or melancholy.

Overall, the no-lie group did tell fewer lies and, by the fifth week, they said saw themselves as more honest than they were before.

Kelly said participants used different strategies to stop lying. Some said they realized they could tell the truth about their accomplishments rather than exaggerate. Others said they stopped making excuses when they were late or failed to do something.

And in some cases, the participants said they would respond to a troubling question by asking another question to distract the person.

(Source: Michigan Health and Fitness-by Sue Thomas)

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