Can Honesty Actually Make You Healthier?

Friends talking to each other on a mountain.

It has long been said that honesty is the best policy, but it turns out that keeping your lies to a minimum – that includes those “harmless” little white lies, too, yes – might actually be as important to your mental and physical health as it is to your conscience.

According to research on the effects of lying on your health, the issue is that even the smallest fibs can amount to compounded stress that takes a serious toll on your mental – and eventually physical – wellness over time. In a 2012 study, for example, the effects of lying were found to include not only anxiety, which can be expected with lying, but also such issues as headaches, sore throats, and tenseness. All of these issues – both the physical and mental – were subsequently reduced in test subjects when their lies decreased as a part of the study.

“Compared to the control group, participants in the more truthful group told significantly fewer lies across the 10-week study,” said Anita Kelly, study author and professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, in the study. “By the fifth week, they saw themselves as more honest. When participants across both groups lied less in a given week, they reported their physical health and mental health to be significantly better that week.”

So how can you apply these findings to your own day-to-day life? According to the study, making changes as small as stopping yourself from exaggerating daily accomplishments or making false excuses about shortcomings could have a pretty major role in keeping your health in check.