Honesty is the Best Policy for Better Wellbeing

The more truthful you are, the healthier you’ll be, a new study finds.

Telling fewer major lies and “white” lies led to better wellbeing among a group of 110 adults ages 18 to 71, researchers led by Anita Kelly, Ph.D., at the University of Notre Dame say. In a group where people were instructed to tell no lies for 10 weeks, those who told at least three fewer white lies averaged four fewer mental-health complaints — such as reporting feeling sad — and three fewer physical complaints than they did in the weeks before the study, the research shows.

Americans in general tell around 11 lies per week, Kelly says.

The benefits of being morally upright extends across income levels and ethnicities, although study participants were predominantly white.

Wellbeing boosts related to honesty appear to be the result of improved relationships that people experience when they lie less, researchers say. Study participants who told fewer lies reported strengthening both close personal relationships and improving their daily social interactions — and perhaps experiencing less mental and physical stress as result.

The study was presented in August 2012 at the annual conference of the American Psychological Association.