Honesty is the best policy as telling fewer lies 'improves your physical and mental health'
People reported feeling better after they stopped exaggerating or making excuses
11:31 GMT, 7 August 2012
11:31 GMT, 7 August 2012
White lies may seem harmless at the time, but bending the truth can actually cause physical and mental health, researchers say.
People who consciously tried to tell fewer white lies were less likely to feel tense or sad and also experienced fewer sore throats and headaches.
Those who told fewer porkies also had better relationships and smoother social interactions overall than fibbers, according to the study from The University of Notre Dame.
Strain: Lie-telling was linked with feeling tense and sad
The team followed 110 people aged 18 to 71 years old over 10 weeks. While half of the participants were told to stop telling both major and minor lies for the duration of the study, the rest of them were given no instructions about lying.
Both groups went to the lab weekly to
complete health and relationship measures and to take a polygraph test
assessing the number of major and white lies they had told. Study author Professor Anita Kelly said the average person told 11 lies a week.
Results revealed when those in the 'no lie' group told three fewer falsehoods than they did in other weeks, they experienced four fewer mental-health complaints and three fewer physical symptoms. This benefit was greater than when the control group unconsciously told fewer white lies in one particular week.
When participants across both groups lied less in a week, they reported that their physical health and mental health was significantly better that week.
Participants also realised they could tell the truth about their daily accomplishments rather than exaggerate, while others said they stopped making false excuses for being late or failing to complete tasks.
Professor Kelly said: 'We found
that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their
everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly
The study, presented at the American Psychological Association’s 120th annual convention, also found some participants learned to avoid lying by answering troubling questions with a question to distract the person.
Co-author Professor Lijuan Wang said: 'Statistical analyses showed that this improvement in relationships significantly accounted for the improvement in health that was associated with less lying.'