Lie less for better health

By Shayna Brouker • Published: October 17th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If the legend is true, George Washington had it right when he could not tell a lie and owned up to chopping down the cherry tree … and he lived a long life to tell about it. Turns out lying might take more than a toll on your conscience, according to new research from the University of Notre Dame. Lying less can improve your relationships, which can have a big impact on overall health, too.

To prove the point, researchers encouraged a group of people to tell fewer lies over a 10-week period. They armed one group with strategies to become less silver-tongued, like declining to answer questions. The no-lie group and the control group both took a polygraph test once a week and reported their general health. Both lied less, but those instructed to be more honest had better health to show for it. There was a direct correlation between honesty and well-being.

Researchers say the link is that honesty relates to intimacy in relationships and, therefore, better quality. Lying also creates inner conflict between self-interest and conscience, influencing self-esteem and our sense of shame.

Research shows that people lie an average of 11 times a week. Lying is a slippery slope, but there are some strategies that can help keep your nose intact and Pinocchio jokes at bay. Look out for these scenarios that may tempt you to fib. A conflict of interest, or situation in which you have a stake, may prompt you to lie in order to gain something. Fuzzy rules, like lackadaisical timekeeping at the office, can lead to rule-bending, too. And rationalizing that “everyone is doing it” is not a reason that you should, too.

Remaining authentic in your relationships can improve your integrity, keep your conscience carefree and ultimately help your health. Take a note from the first president and tell the truth.