August 7, 2012

Liars Possibly Have Worse Mental And Physical Health

Connie K. Ho for - Your Universe Online

11 times a week. That´s the whopping number of times American lie each week, according to surveys described in WebMD Health News. The statistics relate to a new study by researchers from the University of Notre Dame that focused on if people could be convinced to lie less and the effects of lying. The study, titled “Science of Honesty,” found that those who tell the truth during stressful moments can heighten their mental and physical health.

The research was recently presented at the American Psychological Association´s 120th Annual Convention. During the ten week study period, scientists surveyed 100 people, 34% of who were adults and 66% who were college students. The age range was from 18 to 71 years, with an average age of 31. In the project, half the group was told to stop telling major and minor lies while the other half was not given any special instructions on lying. Each week, participants completed measurements on their health and relationship status as well as took a polygraph test to record the number of major and white lies they had told during the week.

"Recent evidence indicates that Americans average about 11 lies per week. We wanted to find out if living more honestly can actually cause better health," explained lead author Anita E. Kelly, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, in a prepared statement. "We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health."

At the end of the project, the researchers saw that there was a connection between less lying and improved health for those who were in the no-lie group. In particular, those in the no-lie group who told less than three white lies in the week reported a reduction of about four mental health complaints and three physical health complaints; these complaints were related to mental state, such an anxiety or melancholy, as well as physical feelings, like less sore throats and headaches. On the other hand, when the lying group told less than three white lies, they reported a decrease of only about two fewer mental-health complaints and one less physical complaint.

As well, those in the truthful group stated that they felt that they were becoming more honest by the fifth week of the study. If they felt the need to lie, they would try to tell the truth about their daily activities and stop make excuses for not completing a task or arriving late. When all the participants lied less during a week, they reported that they had overall improvements in their mental and physical health.

"We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health," continued Kelly, an expert on secrets and self-disclosure, in the statement.

The participants´ close personal relationships also became stronger and they stated that they had better social interactions with those around them.

"Statistical analyses showed that this improvement in relationships significantly accounted for the improvement in health that was associated with less lying," noted Lijuan Wang, a statistician at Notre Dame, in the statement.

As the results are new, the researchers plan to submit the findings for scientific review and hope for publication later this year. Studies at other research centers have found similar results. One research study at Loyola University in Chicago focused on trust.

"When you find that you don't lie, you have less stress," Linda Stroh, professor emeritus of organizational behavior at Loyola University in Chicago, tol USA Today. "Being very conflicted adds an inordinate amount of stress to your life."

Another study by a researcher on lying highlighted feelings of intimacy in relationships.

“There may be increased conflict, as a result of being open and honest, but it leads to better quality of friendships," Sally Theran, assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley College, mentioned to WebMD.