KFB Health Talk: Do you know telling lies could damage your health?

Hi Kfbers! It’s a beautiful Tuesday in the city of Lagos, and today on KFB Health Talk, we are looking at lies and how it can damage your health. Telling lies is second nature for many, particularly those living in the urban areas.

Enjoy this piece by by Tunde Ajaja.

It was his first time travelling by air, and
suffice it to say if he had told the truth when it was required of him, he
would have saved himself from some embarrassment. But in a bid not to appear
like a novice, he lied his way through, even to the point of ridicule.

As expected of a
first-timer, he was anxious, but he did everything possible to hide it. Thus,
like a regular traveller, he sauntered towards the departure hall having asked
a security man for direction.
From the
entrance of the hall where security personnel search passengers entering the
hall, instead of submitting himself for check and dropping his bag to slide
through the scanning machine, Seun Oladele simply told the officer at the door,
“Excuse me, I’m travelling,” thinking those travelling would not need to be
After a brief but quality bashing that made one
of the officers ask him, “Is this your first time at the airport,” his passage
through the other check-points was also greeted with same bashing and
The icing of the cake,
according to him, was when he entered the plane and all passengers were told to
fasten their seatbelts. He said he kept looking around until the person beside
him asked “politely” if it was his first time. “I quickly told him no, until he
pointed out the belt for me, helped me to fasten it and told me ‘that is how to
do it next time. Then I felt stupid and quite ashamed.”
How easy and effortless it is for some people to
hide the truth, but given the fact that honesty has been described as one of
the best virtues any human being can have, it is not out of place to see
Oladele’s action as reprehensible or lying taken too far.
However, it appears the
natural propensity to hide the truth is inherent in most human beings. Findings
have shown that one of the things all human beings have done before and what
most are still guilty of is the act of telling lies, even though it has been
said several times that the best way to remember what you have said before is
to say the truth. For some, lying has almost become a way of life, such that
they would have even lied before realising it, simply because it is a reflex;
hiding the truth comes naturally to them. To some others, they are caught
between being truthful and hiding some vital information. Regardless, many
people do it.
As common as it may
sound, scientists have found that lying may not be good for the body and the
mind, saying it could lead to stress and harm the body.
According to Linda Stroh,
a professor emeritus of organisational behaviour at Loyola University in
Chicago, United States, beyond the fact that lying could prompt the release of
stress hormones in the body, it could increase heart rate, blood pressure and
stress, depending on the situations that make the person to lie.
Stroh, in her reaction on usnews.som, cautioned that since stress has
been found to reduce immunity, if sustained over time, it could contribute to
tension headaches and lower back pain. She added, “Imagine, for example, that
you are planning on lying to your boss or girlfriend tomorrow morning, I would
bet that you can feel the tension in your shoulders, in your stomach, and in
other parts of your body. You would spend a lot of time planning the lie,
executing it, and maintaining it and that can be awfully draining.
“It takes a lot of
negative physical and mental energy to maintain a lie. We have to think before
we answer and we have to plan what we say and do, rather than saying and doing
what comes more naturally. Thus, we waste a lot of precious time covering our
tracks rather than spending that time in positive ways, doing good things.”
In his own explanation,
the executive editor of the journal, Cognitive Science, Dr. Arthur Markman, said
planning a lie could release stress hormone, cortisol, into the brain and that
in serious situations, it could lead to adrenalin rush and sometimes resulting
in sweating.
He said the fact that the
brain has to process and store the truth and the released information (lie) at
the same time could increase the workload on the brain and put it under stress,
which he said could ultimately reduce the brain’s ability to make smart
Markman, in  his
post on,
explained further that such people could tend to anger to shift focus off the
guilt or dishonesty, and in the process subject the brain to further
unnecessary actions. He said over time, habitual liars could lose track of the
truth and their brain could be accustomed to negative feelings.
He concluded that the burden of living with the
guilt, especially if the person does not deserve being deceived, could cause
persistent anxiety.
He added, “The continuing
circulation of stress hormones like cortisol in your brain hurts your ability
to think clearly and depresses your immune system. While these harmful
responses eventually fade, they could pop up again if you feel your lie may be
exposed.” Then his advice, “Telling the truth may get you in trouble, but in
the long run, it’ll feel better to get things out in the open.”
In a study by psychologists,
Prof. Anita Kelly and Prof. Lijuan Wang of the University of Notre Dame in
Indiana, she involved about 110 people aged between 18 and 71 and made up of 35
per cent adults and 65 per cent college students in the study that lasted 10
She instructed half of
the participants not to lie throughout the duration of the study, while the
other half were given free hand to operate, with no instruction on lying. On a
weekly basis, apart from taking lie-detector test every week, both groups were
instructed to visit the laboratory to fill a questionnaire on how much lie and
truth they told in the course of the week, information about their physical and
mental health, including incidences of stress and headache, and the noticeable
changes in their relationships.
The result of the study,
which was unveiled at the American Psychological Association’s 120th annual
convention in the United States, found that people who were instructed not to
lie had better physical and mental health than those who acted freely and told
lies at will.
The researchers found
that the absence of the guilt that often characterise lying and the feeling of
honesty that also comes with telling the truth boosted the first group’s health
and enhanced their social interaction and personal relationships.
The members of the group
said beyond the fact that telling the truth helped them to be honest with
themselves, it helped them to do better in completing their tasks and avoiding
mistakes that would ordinarily prompt them to make false excuses and
contemplate the truth.
Talking about some of the
tips that helped them in avoiding lying, participants in the first group
pointed out that they tried to answer such questions with rather troubling
questions that are capable of distracting the person or reducing the attention
paid to the expected response.
Kelly said, ““We
established very clearly that purposefully trying not to lie caused people to
tell fewer lies. When they told more lies, their health went down and when they
told the truth, it improved, together with their relationships, and research
has long indicated that people with good relationships have better physical and
mental health.” Also, Wang said their statistical analyses showed that the
people in the first group experienced improved relationship with others, which
they said significantly impacted their health, as they were less stressed
during the period.
A professor of
psychology, Oni Fagboungbe, said lying is a physiological activity that
involves the brain and that the entire process could stress the brain, more so
because it consumes a lot of energy.
He added, “Lying involves
cognitive process, meaning that it involves the brain. You have to task the
brain because you are trying to manufacture something that is not the truth, so
you have to think of how to put it in such a way that the receiver will not
know you are lying. So, you work it out and in the process you task the brain.
It’s a physiological process that is highly cognitive.
“Talking about the
consequence, when you lie consistently, you become conditioned to lying,
especially if the receivers don’t detect it, but if detected, it could bring
about shame that is capable of affecting the person’s social interaction.
Keeping track of a lie, as distinct from the truth, also tasks the brain.
“In Yoruba land, it is
believed that there are three components connected to lying, such as stealing,
being a murderer, fornicator/adulterer and such obnoxious behaviours. So that
is why liars are put to shame to discourage others.”
how it works, he said when the lie is manufactured, it first stays in the
sensory part of the memory, from there it moves to the short term memory and
from there to the long term memory, where it is stored.

To Top