In the long list of unusual things scientists study, you can now include the effects of lying on your physical and mental health. Turns out people who lie less are healthier. It’s not quite as obvious as, say, the University of NC School of Public Health research that showed kids played longer when they had . . . are you ready? . . . toys. Still, I suspect most of us aren’t really surprised that lying is bad for you.
The study followed two groups of people, one group was told they could omit information, keep secrets and just not answer questions but NO LYING. At the end of the week the truth tellers had four fewer mental health complaints (e.g. feeling tense or sad) and three fewer physical complaints (e.g. headaches or sore throats).
“When you find that you don’t lie, you have less stress. Being very
conflicted adds an inordinate amount of stress to your life” said Linda Stroh, professor emeritus at Loyola University.
Sounds right. Now here’s what I found really interesting. On average, Americans tell ELEVEN lies a week. Yikes. I’m trying to think back over the week and determine if I’m skewing the average lower or higher. I think lower . . . especially if we’re only counting outright lies. Because honestly, while I rarely set out to lie, I do sometimes allow a misconception to slide. Or I might pretend I never got that e-mail I don’t know how to respond to. And omissions? Well, why not? And then there are times when the truth would really hurt. Like when your girlfriend asks what you think of her hair and you tell her it’s great even though she bears an eerie resemblance to Donald Trump.
When writing, lies, half-truths and omissions can be great ways to build characters, add tension and make writing more interesting (characters lying to each other–never to the reader). But what about real life? You tell me. Is it EVER okay to lie? And what constitutes a lie? I’m still trying to figure this one out . . .