The Science of Honesty: Lying Less Improves Health and Relationships


Lying less may be associated with significant benefits to both our physical and mental health, according to a recent study presented at the American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Conference.

During the conference, researchers from the University of Notre Dame presented an “honesty experiment” which measured whether or not telling lies could have adverse effects on our health. The study lasted 10 weeks and included 110 participants. Half of the group was instructed to avoid telling any major or white lies throughout the 10 week time frame. The other half of the group received no special instructions.

Each participant came in every week to complete health and relationship measurements, as well as use a polygraph to assess how many lies were told throughout the week.

It was discovered in both groups that individuals who reported less lying showed fewer mental health complaints (such as anxiety or sadness) and also fewer physical health complaints (such as sore throats or headaches).

This effect was particularly strong in the “no lie” group, who were overall more truthful than the control group.

In addition, researchers found that individuals who were more honest reported improvements in their close personal relationships and that their overall social interactions went more smoothly that week.

Practicing honesty in your daily life

Honesty is an indispensable part of happiness and success in life.

Perhaps there are rare situations where a small lie may be appropriate (like you listen to a friend’s band and you didn’t like them, but you say you enjoyed it anyway because you were trying to be polite).

However, by and large, I think honesty is something we all need to practice as often as possible. First and foremost, we must be be honest with ourselves. It’s impossible to be truthful to others if we avoid being truthful to ourselves.

One we are honest with ourselves, then we can begin being honest with others. Some of the most common ways we can be more truthful throughout our daily lives is by:

  • Telling the truth about our daily accomplishments without needing to exaggerate.
  • Not making false excuses for being late or failing to complete a task.
  • Responding to a question we don’t want to answer by politely changing the subject, or asking another question.
  • Owning up and apologizing when we hurt or disappoint someone.
  • Not spreading rumors or gossiping about other people, especially about situations we know nothing about.

Taking small steps like these can greatly help us become more honest with ourselves and others on a daily basis.

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