The Truth Can Set You Free and Make You Well

In current society, the concept of operating with honesty or truth is at times presented as unimportant and certainly optional; however, the science tells us that being forthright is health-enhancing, while lying increases physiological and psychological indicators of stress and strain. Lying increases heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate and even sets off a sweat reflex—lie-detectors actually operate around identifying these physiological responses. Levels of consistent low-grade stress, such as those set off from lying, are associated with increases in lifestyle-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer, and type II diabetes. Research conducted at Notre Dame found that people who were in a no-lie group over ten weeks reported fewer physical ailments such as a sore throat or headache and had a reduction in mental health issues when compared to the control group (who continued to lie).

Lying is sometimes identified as a method of control or manipulation and can degrade the authenticity of human connection. Emotionally, lying can reduce self-esteem as one may develop an underlying assumption that they are not an honorable person, impacting their ability to cope with challenges. When we are the receiver of a lie, the interaction can create instability, fear, and mistrust resulting in a relationship chasm further eroding our well-being, the quality of a relationship, and result in increased social isolation. Conversely, the health science data tells us that emotionally intimate, stable relationships are associated with improved mental and physical health, quality of life, and longevity. Further research in older adults found that those who scored higher in measures of honesty had less lung disease and depression, scored higher in a quality-of-life assessment, and had better physical mobility over a period of four years when compared to those who scored the lowest in measures of honesty and integrity.

For humans to flourish we know that living in community, loving, serving, and supporting one another improves our healthspan and lifespan; it just so happens that now we can add operating with honesty and integrity to the list of important behaviors that impact our health and well-being.