Study: Faking a smile can lead to sadness, withdrawal

By Staff Writer

Some teens who suffer from emotional problems such as depression and anxiety may try to hide their conditions from their parents, friends and teachers. On some occasions, adolescents will feign happiness by smiling when they are around other people.

However, a new study by a Michigan State University (MSU) scholar suggests that individuals who fake smiles throughout the day are more likely to worsen their mood and become less productive. The report, which appears in the Academy Management Journal, based this theory on a two-week observation of a group of city bus drivers. The researcher found that people who smiled when they were not truly happy were at risk of experiencing emotional exhaustion and withdrawal from their work.

Furthermore, the harmful effects of putting on an act for other people's sake were more serious in women. Although the study did not identify the gender differences, previous research has shown that members of society expect women to show more emotional intensity and positive expressions than men. The MSU scholar warned that people who fake their mood for a long period of time day may not feel like themselves after a while, causing then to become more distant and melancholy.

Adolescents who are afraid to express their natural emotions may benefit from wilderness therapy programs, which are designed to make troubled teens feel confident.