Why Lying is Bad for You

If asked, most of us would probably say that lying is bad. Many of us may even claim that we never, or hardly ever, lie. And to that I say: you’re lying! Studies have found that most people tell an average of 11 lies a week—it sounds like a high number, but just think of the last time you blamed imaginary traffic when you were late. Or the last time you told a friend you loved her haircut even though you secretly think it looks like a weird wig. Or the last time you turned down an invite because you couldn’t get a babysitter (never mind that you don’t have a babysitter, because it would be weird to get one for your houseplants). Those little white lies add up… and they’re taking a toll on your relationships and your health.

A new study put the adage “honesty is the best policy” to the test recently, when Notre Dame psychology professor Anita Kelly spent 10 weeks tracking 110 adults. Half of them were were told to report the number of lies they told each week. The other half of the group was asked to stop lying completely during the study, which meant no false statements, though omitting the truth, avoiding answering a question, and keeping secrets were all allowed. Throughout the study period, all participants took a weekly lie detector test and filled out questionnaires about their health and the quality of their relationships.

Sort of unsurprising considering the weekly lie detector test, but the study resulted in both groups lying less. The interesting part? The people instructed not to lie at all experienced health benefits as a result—to be exact, telling three fewer lies each week resulted in four fewer mental health complaints and three fewer physical health complaints. Lying is thought to trigger the release of stress hormones, increasing heart rate and blood pressure and reducing your white blood cells… leading to all sorts of fun stuff, like tension headaches, lower back pain, and a rapid heartbeat.

Those who made an effort to stop lying also reported improved relationships, confirming long-standing research indicating that people with good relationships are in better health. It makes sense that big lies, from cheating to hiding financial issues from your significant other, take a toll. But how come smaller lies are such a big deal? “It takes a lot of negative physical and mental energy to maintain a lie,” said Linda Stroh, author of Trust Rules: How to Tell the Good Guys From the Bad Guys. “We have to think before we answer and we have to plan what we say and do, rather than saying and doing what comes more naturally. We waste a lot of precious time covering our tracks rather than spending that time in positive ways, doing good things.”

…All right, so who’s going to be the first to tell their husband that his new beard makes him look like a Furby?



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Diana B.
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Frans Badenhorst
Frans B5 years ago

interesting article, thanks. Lying will make you physically sick....

Nichole Dahlen
Nichole Dahlen5 years ago

Wow- that is really interesting! I'll have to remember that, like i figured big lies would do that. But small ones? Thats really cool!

Xxx R.
X R5 years ago

Another nail in the coffin that biology is meaningless.
Another grain of sand on the beach of the matrix of life being truth, fair play and love.

If your body is a barometer for truth, it changes our origins myth: evolution is not ruled by self-interest. The data are in showing it is ruled by fair play (justice).

We ignore these truths at our cost. As Cecil B. de Mille put is: "You cannot break the law. You can only break yourself against the law.
This datum validates that.

Elaine A.
Elaine Al Meqdad5 years ago

When one lies, they have to tell 20 more just to get out of that one. That's called digging your own grave!

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

sorry, that should have read,
"wear the shame, I had to keep it completely to myself, and since I was only a 21-yr. old girl, this was incredibly difficult."

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

I will maintain that there is a circumstance where truth is not necessary.

When one person hurts another who trusts them implicitly, one has to be careful of their motivation in telling that person the truth.
I cheated on a man I loved dearly many years ago (he passed away after 5 yrs.), and cheated on him once. I was convinced he could read me completely. I loved him so much and valued the trust he had in me so much that I found I could never tell him.
I reasoned it like this - telling him would shatter the idea that he could trust me. Telling him the truth would probably break us up which would hurt both of us The sin was mine. The guilt was mine.
So what good would come of "dumping" my guilt in his lap? I get to feel better that I did "the right thing by telling the truth"? Or hurting and shattering someone who thought they'd found it all?
I kept the secret for the rest of his life. I reasoned it wouldn't have been fair to him and that I'd ever have to not just keep the secret and wear the shame, I had to keep it completely to myself since I was only a 21-yr. old girl.

Samantha Shira
Samantha Shira5 years ago

good to know, keep it honest(:

Anne P.
Anne P5 years ago

Mitt Robme should read this article.