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Taking it to the Grave

Taking it to the Grave

We surveyed over 1,000 Americans about the secrets they are most and least likely to keep and whether it’s OK to lie in certain situations. We then took this information and examined it by gender, political affiliation, and education level. Continue reading to see which secrets Americans are willing to reveal – and which ones they’d rather take to the grave.

Do you ever feel a tingly sensation when you think


 someone may be lying to you? Well, your body might be trying to tell you something. At least one study found 3 in 5 people lie during a 10-minute conversation. Worse still, most people don’t just lie once – they lie two to three times over the same period.

If most people lie, whom can you really trust with your secrets?

Familiar Admissions

Under the veil of anonymity, we asked Americans to share some of their deepest secrets. Of their responses, we identified the top 10 occurring words.

The most frequently used word to describe America’s most kept secrets? “Cheat.” For some people that may mean cheating on a diet or even on an important test – but for others, it may indicate infidelity. Some experts suggest that as many as 1 in 4 men cheat over the course of their lifetime, while more than 1 in 10 women do the same.

Other commonly used words to describe the most confidential truths of Americans included “lied,” “stole,” and “friend.” Whatever their confessions alluded to, research shows that when people lie, the brain can become desensitized to dishonesty, making lying feel more and more natural over time.  

Dishonest Tendencies

George Washington may be famously thought to have said he couldn’t tell a lie – but there aren’t too many people who can get away with a quote like that. Lying may simply be a part of human nature, which means, like it or not, we’ve all lied once or twice.

Our survey found more than 4 in 5 people felt it was OK to tell a lie under certain circumstances. Whether it’s lying about how old you are or how good your partner looks in a new outfit, sometimes it’s easier to blur the truth when we think it doesn’t hurt to lie or when we want to spare someone’s feelings.

While nearly 3 in 4 people believed white lies were sometimes appropriate, roughly 88 percent said it was never OK to lie under oath – and for a good reason. Lying under oath in a court of law is considered a criminal act.

Secrets From Someone

Men and women fell into different categories when it came to keeping a secret from someone. While men tend to withhold the whole truth more often (and when it’s in their best interest), women were found to keep quiet on the whole truth most often when it benefited other people.

When we asked them about secrets they’re keeping from just one person, nearly 40 percent of women and over 44 percent of men admitted to holding a certain truth close to the chest.

But just whom are most Americans lying to? More than 2 in 5 women and nearly half of men are keeping a secret from their significant other, while roughly 1 in 4 people are holding out on a parent. There are some key warning signs to look for if you think your partner may be lying, but repairing that trust is significantly more complicated.

Varying Degrees of Secrecy

It isn’t always easy to keep a secret. Trying to hold in the truth can be exhausting, and it may seem as if all you can think about is coming clean. Still, some of our deepest (and occasionally darkest) secrets are potentially better left untold. These are the secrets Americans would rather keep to themselves than share.

A majority of the secrets people wanted to take to the grave involved illegal activity. While fantasizing about some of these actions can occasionally be an indicator of emotional distress – putting them into action is an entirely different story. Among the most heinous secrets? Bestiality, incest, and murder.

Not all closely kept secrets directly involved respondents, though; some secrets involved other people they knew. On average, Americans ranked keeping the secret of a friend who had an abortion a 5.1 on a scale of 1 to 7. In fact, in some instances, people were more likely to keep the same secret for other people than for themselves. Friends or family members diagnosed with an STD were also ranked a five on the scale, compared to a 4.2 for participants diagnosed with an STD.

Gendered Secrets

Men and women didn’t always agree on the secrets most worth keeping.

There’s no question Americans with mental disorders face stigmas every day – but experts suggest men may be more sensitive to the misconceptions surrounding mental health. According to our poll, men were more likely to conceal that they take medication for a mental disorder when compared to women. Men were also more likely to hide the being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or another mental disorder.

Women, on the other hand, were more likely than men to keep a secret about a friend having an abortion. They’d also stay tight-lipped if someone they knew was diagnosed with an STD. Research indicates that women are more likely to compromise the truth (or even their moral integrity) in specific scenarios when defending someone else.

While a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found members of the LGBTQ community believed Americans were more accepting of homosexuality today, they still felt somewhat discriminated against by society and their communities. According to our poll, men were more likely than women to never to tell anyone they were homosexual or bisexual.

The Degree of Discretion

Our survey also found Americans with various levels of education had different opinions on the secrets they should and shouldn’t share. Research has found that keeping secrets can manifest as a physical burden in some cases, and even the thought of holding in the truth can cause emotional distress for some people. According to our survey, people without a four-year college degree were more comfortable sharing the truth of being convicted of a crime or using hard drugs compared to those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher were also more likely to keep the secrets of the people around them. When asked about a friend who had an abortion or a sexual encounter with a friend’s sibling, participants without these degrees were less inclined to keep the secret compared to those with higher levels of completed education.

They’ll Never Tell

Whether it’s true or not – even the former director of the CIA thinks millennials struggle to keep secrets compared to older generations (at least when it comes to classified information). Our survey found varying degrees in which millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers spilled the beans.

When it came to infidelity, millennials were the least likely generation to keep it a secret – whether they knew a friend who was cheated on, had done the cheating, or they themselves committed adultery.

Secrets millennials believed they could keep better than anyone else? Hitting a parked car and causing major damage, or even accidentally killing someone.

Partisan Privacy

Democrats were more likely to keep a secret when the subject was someone else, whereas those who were Republicans more heavily indicated they’d never tell when the secret was about themselves.

One of the biggest discrepancies between Democrats and Republicans was about sexual orientation. While Democrats ranked the likelihood of not divulging being homosexual or bisexual a 2.3 on our scale, Republicans ranked it a full point higher, on average. Republicans also were more likely to hide if their sexual desires were unusual, if they were diagnosed with an STD, or if they used marijuana.

When asked about an acquaintance diagnosed with an STD or having an abortion, Democrats were less likely to share that secret with other people compared to Republicans.

Easy Options

Regardless of the circumstances or intentions, everyone lies – some people even lie a lot. Studies have shown that the more you distort the truth, the harder it can become to break the habit of telling little white lies regularly. Our survey found most Americans even believed it was OK to lie sometimes, and many admitted to hiding the truth from their significant other.

While we may not be able to protect you from the secrets people keep, we do know a thing or two about home security. At GetSafe, it should be easy to feel safe in your own home. By combining our 24/7 monitoring services with the convenience of the devices you use regularly, we’ve merged the best of both worlds. With flexible pricing and an easy-to-use app, you won’t have to think twice about protecting what matters most to you. Visit us online at GetSafe.com to learn more.


We surveyed over 1,000 Americans about the hypothetical secrets they would be most and least likely to keep to themselves.

Fair Use Statement

You don’t have to keep our content a secret; feel free to share it for noncommercial purposes! All we ask is that you link your readers back to this page, so they can learn more about our study.

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