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CULTURE DIGEST: Honesty may boost health, study finds

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- People who tell fewer lies experience improved health, such as less stress and fewer headaches, according to research presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.

"Recent evidence indicates that Americans average about 11 lies per week. We wanted to find out if living more honestly can actually cause better health," lead author Anita Kelly, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, said in an APA news release Aug. 4.

"We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health," Kelly said.

The study, which has not yet undergone peer review, followed 110 people for 10 weeks. Sixty-six percent of the participants were college students, and 34 percent were adults in the community. About half of the participants were told to stop telling lies for the duration of the study, and the rest were given no special instructions.

Both groups reported to a lab each week to answer questions about their health and relationships and to take a lie detector test regarding the number of lies they had told that week.

Those who told fewer lies experienced fewer mental health complaints such as feeling tense or melancholy and fewer physical complaints such as sore throats and headaches, the study found. Participants also reported their personal relationships and social interactions went more smoothly when they told fewer lies.

Some said they realized they could simply tell the truth about their daily accomplishments rather than exaggerate, and others said they stopped making false excuses for being late or failing to complete tasks, Kelly said, according to the news release.


"When you don't lie, you have less stress. Being very conflicted adds an inordinate amount of stress to your life," Linda Stroh, professor emeritus of organizational behavior at Loyola University, told USA Today.

NEW LAW, CREATIVITY BLOCK WESTBORO PROTESTS -- The independent Westboro Baptist Church of military funeral protest fame is being blocked on more than one front in its radical demonstrations at solemn family gatherings.

In recent months, thousands of people have invoked creativity in stopping Westboro's protests, gathering in droves wearing colorful shirts or dressed as zombies to form a human blockade of the group's path.

This week, President Obama signed into law the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, which restricts protests at military funerals to at least two hours before or after the event, and at least 300 feet away from the venue. The law counters a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that Westboro's protests are protected under the First Amendment.

Last month, large crowds donned red shirts to prohibit Westboro from disrupting a funeral in Columbia, Mo., and a group of Texas A&M University students put on maroon T-shirts to protect a College Station, Texas, funeral from Westboro's onslaught. In Seattle, dozens of people dressed as zombies to block a Westboro protest at a military burial there.

The Kansas-based Westboro church frequently demonstrates at funerals to spread its extreme message that deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are God's punishment for the United States' tolerance of homosexuality.


Members of the group say they will not respect the Honoring America's Veterans Act limiting such protests, according to news reports. Violating the law would include the possibility of $50,000 in statutory damages, according to the Army Times.

CHINESE WOMAN RESCUED BABIES FROM TRASH -- Lou Xiaoying has been a one-person refutation of China's coercive "one-child" policy for decades.

Lou, 88 years of age and experiencing kidney failure, is being recognized as a hero after a report has surfaced of her 40 years of rescuing abandoned babies on the streets of Jinhua in the Zhejiang Province. Beginning in 1972, she saved more than 30 infants whom she found in the trash, The Daily Mail reported July 30.

Along with her late husband Li Zin, who died 17 years ago, she reared four of the children and gave the rest to family and friends. Her most recent rescue came when she was 82. She found her youngest son, Zhang Qilin, 7, in a garbage can.

Lou found the abandoned babies as she sought to make a living by recycling trash.

"The whole thing started when I found the first baby, a little girl back in 1972 when I was out collecting rubbish," she said, according to The Daily Mail. "She was just lying amongst the junk on the street, abandoned. She would have died had we not rescued her and taken her in.

"I realized if we had strength enough to collect garbage, how could we not recycle something as important as human lives?" Lou said. "These children need love and care. They are all precious human lives."


Of her youngest, Zhang, she said, "Even though I was already getting old, I could not simply ignore the baby and leave him to die in the trash. He looked so sweet and so needy. I had to take him home with me."

Her older children help care for Zhang, she said. Lou has one biological daughter, Zhang Caiying, 49.

China's compulsory population control program, implemented in 1979, generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two if the first is a girl. The policy has resulted in many reports of authorities carrying out forced abortions and sterilizations, as well as accounts of infanticide.

INCENTIVES PUSH CHINESE OFFICIALS TO ABORT BY FORCE -- Local family planning officials have vested interests in forcing abortions on Chinese women, an expert on China says.

Recent accounts of forced late-term abortions have brought China's coercive "one-child" population control policy to the world's attention in a way that is possibly unprecedented since it was instituted in 1979.

In a July 25 column for the South China Morning Post, Jackie Sheehan said such "oercion and violence are integral parts of the system."

"The people who track down pregnant women to carry out unwanted terminations do it not because they are evil or unfeeling," wrote Sheehan, senior fellow at the China Policy Institute and associate professor at the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies of the University of Nottingham in England. "They do it because of powerful incentives to meet family-planning targets."


She said, "Disappointing their superiors by failing to meet targets has serious career consequences, whereas violating the rights of ordinary citizens, an occasional international scandal notwithstanding, results only in temporary suspension or demotion. The understanding is that local officials do whatever dirty work is necessary to keep the numbers right and in turn their bosses look after their interests."

China's population control program generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children. The policy has resulted in many reports of authorities carrying out forced abortions and sterilizations, as well as accounts of infanticide. It has led to a dramatic gender imbalance because of the Chinese preference for sons.

Women who do not have birth permits typically must pay fines to give birth. Otherwise, officials may forcibly abort their babies.

"These social compensation fees have become a vital component of local officials' income, covering overtime, bonuses, pensions and travel expenses," Sheehan wrote. "Officials lose points for every out-of-quota birth in their area and earn cash bonuses for every abortion and sterilisation they enforce."

CANCER SURVIVOR ENJOYS DAUGHTER AFTER REJECTING ABORTION -- British mother Lyndsey Crowder is enjoying life with her 4-year-old daughter after refusing an abortion while she had life-threatening cancer.


In late 2007, Crowder learned she was pregnant, only to find out weeks later she had Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, according to The Daily Mail. She and her husband Nick already had suffered the stillbirth of a daughter and miscarriages of twins.

Physicians told her she might have only weeks to live and offered abortion and chemotherapy among her options. They told Crowder they did not know how pregnancy would affect her health or what effect the chemo might have on her unborn baby, The Daily Mail reported Aug. 1. She underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy.

"I thought, I can deal with the cancer but I cannot lose another baby," Crowder said, according to the newspaper. "I just knew I would do whatever it took to get that child into the world. The rest was in God's hands."

She said, "To my mind there was no choice. But I knew I had to give the baby a chance.

"I had scan after scan to check on the baby and even though everything looked fine it wasn't until she was born and I saw her that I could believe she'd be okay."

After the delivery of Sidney Rose by Caesarean section at 34 weeks, an emergency scan showed the cancer had spread throughout Crowder's body. She received more chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

Crowder, 34, has been in remission for 30 months.

MEDICAL ACADEMY IMPLICATED IN DUMPING OF BABIES -- A medical academy reportedly is behind the dumping of the bodies of nearly 250 unborn children in the Ural Mountains of western Russia.

An employee of the Urals State Medical Academy in Ekaterinburg told police the school routinely had dumped the bodies of unborn babies, according to a July 31 report on the website of RT, an English language news channel that reports on Russia. The employee said 10 barrels of fetal remains were dumped in May in addition to four barrels containing 248 bodies that were discovered recently. The location of the 10 barrels of bodies has yet to be learned, RT reported.


In searching academy property, police found an agreement between it and a waste disposal company operated by the Ekaterinburg administration. Academy workers said barrels of unborn babies' bodies were placed on the waste company's truck to be taken to a forest for dumping, according to RT.

Several hospitals supplied Urals State Medical Academy with fetal remains for research, reported.

Compiled by Tom Strode, Erin Roach and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ) and in your email (

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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