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Fewer Lies, Better Health?

People Who Lied Less Reported Better Relationships, Improved Mental, Physical Health: Study
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Lying and Health: Study Results continued...

Both groups reduced their major lies, but the no-lie group reduced those lies much more.

The link between less lying and improved health was seen in both groups, Kelly found.

"In a given week, if they told fewer lies, they also reported their health was better," Kelly says.

"The connection between lying less and improved health, following the people over 10 weeks, was amplified by being in the no-lie group,'' she says.  "The connection was even stronger."

For instance, in a given week, if a member of the no-lie group reduced white lies by three, they had more than four fewer mental health complaints.

In the comparison group, if someone reduced their white lies by three, they had just two fewer mental health complaints, she says.

"When a given person was lying less, they also reported their relationships were better," she says.

That, she says, explains the link between lying less and better health.

Why? "What we are suggesting is, not violating others' expectation of honesty is likely to build trust, which may be key to good health through improving our relationships."

The study was funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

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."

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