Lying is bad for your health – whether it’s well-meaning or not, studies show.
People are more likely to tell white lies, or ‘prosocial lies’, to those they care about to avoid hurting their feelings, researchers have found.
But no matter what the reason, results showed lying is almost always damaging to someone’s physical and mental health.
The study by researchers at the University of San Diego Emotion Lab builds on previous research from 2012, which showed honesty also makes us happy.
Researchers found that people are more likely to tell white lies to those that they care about than others. But lying can negatively impact someone’s mental and physical health. Experts recommend for people to avoid lying in order to improve their personal relationships
The researchers looked at prosocial lies and how they impact daily life.
Their first study analyzed when people told white lies and their compassion level toward the person who received the lie.
How generosity is found to make you happier
Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland studied if generosity had an impact on someone’s happiness.
They studied 50 people and gave them $100 over the course of a couple weeks.
Half of the group was told to spend the money on themselves while the other half was told to spend it on someone else.
The researchers brought the group in before they gave out money and attached them to a MRI machine.
They asked people to think of a friend and how much they would give them to measure how the responses showed in the brain.
The scans showed people were happier when they chose to be generous as opposed to keeping the money.
It also showed that it didn’t differ depending on the amount someone decided to give.
People experienced the same measure of the happiness no matter how much money they were generous with.
This data influenced the researchers to conclude that generosity improves someone’s happiness.
They found that compassion towards someone increased their likelihood to tell a white lie.
‘The effect of compassion on prosocial lying was partially mediated by the importance placed on preventing emotional harm that could occur as a result of their feedback’, the researchers said in the study.
A second study was initiated that went deeper into what about compassion causes people to tell these white lies.
The researchers looked at differences in traits of people to see if it differs how they handle their compassion towards someone.
One trait connected with compassion is someone’s attempt to prevent harm on the person that can be inflicted by being honest.
But this attempt to prevent harm can actually hinder happiness.
A study from the University of Notre Dame, published in 2012, analyzed lying and how it impacts someone’s mental health.
The researchers found that people who were honest with loved ones in their lives were also more likely to be happy.
They studied 110 people over a 10-week period.
The ages of the participants ranged from 18 to 71 years.
Half of the group was instructed to not lie for the full 10 weeks while the other group had no special instructions and acted as a control.
Researchers found that people in the non-lying group experienced better physical and mental health than those who were in the control.
Participants in the non-lying group also reported an improvement in their personal relationships over the 10 weeks and better social interactions.
While white lies might be necessary to loved ones who people are more compassionate about, experts recommend avoiding them to improve physical and mental health.