You know how you make healthy New Year’s resolutions every year like, eat more broccoli or actually use my gym membership? You might even make these resolutions before the new academic year picks up in September, or before your schedule gets more hectic in the fall after the lazy days of August.
Well, this year, add a new one to the list: Don’t tell lies.
Anita Kelly, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame, gathered a group of participants in 2012 ranging in age from 18 to 71 and randomly divided the group in half. Half of the study subjects were instructed to stop telling any sort of lies. The other half, the control group, didn’t get any special instructions.
Both groups came into the lab weekly to submit to a polygraph test about the number of lies they told that week and to answer questions about their health and relationship status.
“We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health,” says Kelly.
Researchers found that the no-lies group not only reported feeling less tense and melancholy but experienced fewer minor health issues like sore throats and headaches. Although the control group didn’t have specific instructions to stop lying, researchers found that during the weeks in which they told fewer lies, they also experienced fewer mental and physical health issues.
The study also found that lying affected participants’ personal relationships.
Those in the no-lies group found their relationships and social interactions improved — and better relationships mean better health. “Statistical analyses showed that this improvement in relationships significantly accounted for the improvement in health that was associated with less lying,” says Lijuan Wang, the study’s co-author.
At the end of the study, participants found that not lying was not as challenging as they thought. Food for thought when you next think about “embellishing” the truth to your partner, even if it’s a white lie.
Caithlyn Hitt is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured in Thrillist, Romper, the New York Daily News, and more.