Skip to content

Mental Health Center

Font Size

Fewer Lies, Better Health?

People Who Lied Less Reported Better Relationships, Improved Mental, Physical Health: Study

Fewer Lies, Better Health: Perspective

The findings echo some other research findings by Sally Theran, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass.

"My research on girls and boys ... indicates that the process of being authentic, or being honest and open in meaningful relationships, is significantly related to feeling less depressed and having higher self-esteem," she says.

Honesty is also related to feelings of intimacy in friendships, she has found. "There may be increased conflict, as a result of being open and honest, but it leads to better quality of friendships," Theran says.

Telling the truth can feel risky, she says, but when you do so, you can feel less inner conflict. "When we lie," she says, "it adversely affects our self-esteem and increases our sense of shame. So, it's not surprising at all that the authors found that telling the truth was related to all these positive outcomes."

Total Honesty Vs. Reality

Total honesty is not realistic,Kelly and Theran say.

"The goal is a reduction in lies," Kelly says

Theran distinguishes between major lies and white lies. This hit home recently when her 6-year-old daughter asked: "Is the tooth fairy really real?"

"In that case, in my opinion," Theran says, "a lie is OK."

"There are different motives for lying -- to protect a child's sense of magic is one thing, but it's another thing to tell your boss that you've completed a project when you haven't."

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary, as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.


Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
man screaming
Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
woman looking into fridge
When food controls you.
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
Plate of half eaten cakes
mother kissing newborn
Woman multitasking
colored pencils
Woman relaxing with a dog

WebMD Special Sections