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Lying makes me sick!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
posted by Douglas Keene

You may be sick and tired of people lying, but it seems that your own lies are making you sick and tired as well. None of us like to be lied to and yet, most of us lie routinely [about 11 times a week according to these researchers]. We justify our bad behavior of course. We have reasons for not telling the truth. But when others lie to us–they are simply bad people. And we don’t like it. So here’s the best reason we’ve seen to curb that impulse to shade the truth: if you lie, you could die–or at least suffer a bit.

Researchers tracked the health of 110 adults for 10 weeks. Half the participants were asked to stop lying during the ten weeks (defined as no false statements although they could still omit the truth, keep secrets and dodge questions they did not wish to answer).  The other half were not given any instructions on lying. All the participants took lie detector tests weekly, reported the number of fibs they told each week, and completed questionnaires about their physical and mental health and the quality of their relationships.

“Over the course of 10 weeks, the link between less lying and improved health was significantly stronger for participants in the no-lie group, the study found. For example, when participants in the no-lie group told three fewer white lies than they did in other weeks, they experienced on average about four fewer mental-health complaints, such as feeling tense or melancholy, and about three fewer physical complaints, such as sore throats and headaches, the study found. In contrast, when control group members told three fewer white lies, they experienced two fewer mental-health complaints and about one less physical complaint. The pattern was similar for major lies, Kelly said.”

So even though all of us lie, it makes us sick! Mentally and physically and it damages our relationships. That’s a pretty good motivator to work harder to tell the truth. We would point out that the research definition of “lying” is pretty flexible. You can still deflect, omit, dodge and yet, reap the health benefits! The researchers caution that the process of monitoring and reducing lies is certainly not an easy thing. They say most study participants were only able to pare down their lies to once a week. Most of the participants reported they stopped exaggerating their day-to-day accomplishments, dropped untruthful excuses and told partial truths instead.

The easiest way to stop lying is to choose to affiliate with those who encourage you to be truthful rather than telling you it’s okay to lie. It’s a good goal to attempt: living a life without lies. And who knows? It may help you live longer.

APA Conference 2012 presentation: “A Life Without Lies: How Living Honestly Can Affect Health,” Anita E Kelly, Session 3189, 12 to 12:50 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 4, Room W303C, Level III, Orange County Convention Center.


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