From little white lies to complete fabrications, we all bend the truth. In fact, a study from the University of Massachusetts showed that 60 percent of individuals self-reported that they could not make it through a 10-minute conversation without lying at least once.
And men are the worst culprits: British research found that men lie twice as much as women. While your pants won’t necessarily catch on fire, more trouble comes with lying than you may have originally thought--especially when it comes to your health. Read on to learn the many ways that harboring secrets can harm your well-being.
Stress Will Eat at You
Lies tend to breed more lies, and the act of coming up with new stories to cover up small falsehoods can get exhausting and stressful. Need concrete proof? Just look to the tools law enforcement officials use to catch them: lie detector tests.
Polygraph machines can sense changes in the hormones called glucocorticoids, which help spur chemical reactions in your body like changes in your pulse and breath, skin electricity (a moisture buildup under skin that makes you more conductive), or even the pitch of your voice, says David Ropeik, a communications instructor at Harvard University. The more revved those hormones are, the more signs you're likely to give off.
And the longer you attempt to keep a story straight, the more strain and stress you’ll feel. This discomfort can lead to more serious side effects down the line. Columbia University research shows stressed-out people were 27 percent more likely to have heart attacks compared to those who worried less. (Tame your tension with these 6 Ways to Calm the Heck Down.)
Workouts Will Feel Harder
Deception might keep you from dragging your butt to the gym. Stanford researchers had participants write down big secrets they were keeping that required lies to cover up. Some lies were big--like cheating on a spouse--while others were minor falsehoods like pretending you’re feeling fine when you’ve had a rough day.
Acknowledging the dishonesty made physical tasks such as carrying groceries or helping someone move feel more taxing, and even hills and distances seemed steeper and farther, the self-reported research showed. What’s more, the bigger the secret, the more “weighed down” people felt.
How does that work? These thoughts may activate parts of your brain tied to perception and vision in the same way as when you are physically weighed down, study authors said. This can lead to physical overexertion, exhaustion, and stress. So the heavier the lie you’re dealing with, the heavier those bench presses may feel. (Learn how to spots Where Stress Hides in your body and how to fight back.)
Your Health and Relationships Will Suffer
Cut out falsehoods, solve all the health problems? Notre Dame researchers monitored the lies of more than 100 people by subjecting them to weekly lie detector tests. Scientists instructed half of the study participants not to tell blatant lies by giving them tips on how to avoid a falsehood. (They didn’t have to be completely honest; they were allowed to dodge questions or keep secrets.)
However, those who were explicitly told to tell the truth during the study period reported fibbing less frequently, and in the end they reported having improved relationships, better sleep, less tension, and fewer headaches and sore throats. (These 6 health lies are putting your life on the line. Beware: The Dangerous Health Lies You Tell Yourself.)
You'll Burn Through Cash
Choose your words carefully; they can cost you more than your health. People getting manicures who told white lies to cover up their dissatisfaction with the service actually left bigger tips when compared to those who were honest, says research from Stanford University.
How does that make sense? Study authors point to cognitive dissonance: Hiding your true feelings makes you uncomfortable, and to get rid of this annoyance, you act to make your words feel truer. Tipping disproportionately high may feel like it will make your judgment of the service appear more accurate. (Here are The 10 Lies You Hear Every Day and and what they really mean.)