A new study released by the University of Notre Dame in Indiana says that honesty is definitely the best policy when it comes to your health. Researchers found that telling fewer lies can actually benefit you not only mentally but physically, reports the American Psychological Association.
About 110 people participated in a ‘science of honesty’ experiment over the course of 10 weeks. Every week, study participants would visit a laboratory to complete health and relationship measures and take a polygraph test in order to assess lies that were told that week.
“When they went up in their lies, their health went down,” says lead author Anita Kelly, a psychology professor at the university. “When their lies went down, their health improved.”
Clinicians then instructed half of the participants to refrain from telling any type of lie for 10 weeks. They were allowed to remain silent and refuse to answer any questions, so that they would not have to lie. The other half of the group were free to do whatever came naturally.
During the study’s observation period, researchers discovered that the link between not lying and improved health was stronger for those who refrained from not being honest, exhibiting fewer physical and mental health complaints.
The study also revealed positive results in participants’ personal relationships, with those in the no-lie group reporting improved relationship and social interactions overall going more smoothly when they told no lies.
According to the university scientists, on average, Americans lie about 11 times a week. Those who became more truthful as a result of the experiment explained that they chose to tell the truth rather than exaggerate, refrained from making false excuses, answered a question with another question to distract a person, simply changed the topic or — just be vague — laughed if the question was ridiculous.