Each and everyday either you or someone else on the planet tells a lie. Lies are tools people have created to hide the truth for a variety of reasons. I am not interested today on why people lie or how lying came to be, but if lying is bad for your health. This question was inspired by the news I heard earlier this year that swearing/cursing reduces risk for heart attack because it relives stress. Then I thought, what other ways can words affect people physically.
When a person lies the body releases chemicals like epinephrine and dopamine. This is a result from the stress induced by you making the conscious decision to go against the social norm of telling the truth. When feeling stressed the body sweats, blood pressure and heart rate increase, and chemicals are being released and causes even more stress. Stress also causes muscles to tense and de-tense, a technique that relieves stress. Doing this for long periods of time can cause stress related disorders such as headaches and migraines. Stress can also compromise your immune system, decreasing white blood cells, which in turn makes fighting off germs, bacteria, and viruses more difficult than it has to be.
So Yes, lying can be physically harmful. But, can not lying be beneficial to your health?
An interesting study done by Anita Kelly, who teaches psychology at Notre Dame University, followed 110 adults for ten weeks. In those ten weeks she tracked their physical and mental health. The study had the 110 people divided into 2 groups. One group was asked not to lie at all for the length of the study while the other half simply had to report how many times they lied in a week for the ten week study. They filled out questionnaires about their lives to gauge physical and mental health. At the end of the study those in the group who were asked not to lie reported their lives were happier than when they began. There were also fewer health complaints, assuming less headaches and general depression. The control group, those asked to live as normal as they can, felt pressured to lie less because of the study and reported that they were generally happier, but not as happy as group one supposedly.
There are a number of explanations for why the group that was told not to lie felt happier. The honesty they were told to express could have affected them positively at work or in their personal lives. They could have felt like a better person for not lying and telling the truth, and was felt as a personal win and a step in the right direction. Without the stress from lying the people in group 1 had less headaches and mental health complaints like depression or feeling guilty. Guilt is another factor taken into account. Guilt can cause people to act poorly like drink and feel majorly depressed. Without stress and guilt weighing you down from fabricating the lie to living with it, its very likely your outlook on life, and view of yourself, will either change for the better or simply progress. All in all, not lying can be beneficial to your health.