Monday, August 13, 2007
Left-handedness and your health
I told my wife today is International Left Handers Day. She comes from a long line of them. She, along with her father, brother, sister and aunt are all proud southpaws.

"If the left hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body and the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body, you know we're the only ones in our right mind," she said.

"That must be lefty humor," I said.

From doors, computers, to scissors, there is no doubt that our world is made for right-handed people. Even anthropologists, have found that right-hand preference spans across all human cultures, including ancient civilizations. Even a test of fetuses (using ultrasound) shows 92 percent sucking their right thumbs, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto.

In fact, about 1 in 10 people are left-handed, according to the latest research. Also, left-handedness tends to be more common in men than in women. Being a lefty is also a family affair. A Scientific American Mind article states that two-right handed parents have a 9.5 percent chance of having a left-handed child. A mixed couple, with one lefty and one righty, have about double those chances. Whereas, two left-handed mates have a 26 percent chance of having a southpaw baby.

Just last month, Oxford University researchers discovered a gene that increases the odds of being left-handed. That same gene may carry an increased risk of schizophrenia. It's yet another finding that associates left-handedness with poorer health outcomes.

A Dutch study this year found that left-handed women have a higher risk for cancer, stroke and arterial damage. Some older studies have found associations with a long list of chronic ailments: alcoholism, dyslexia, migraine, asthma, hyperactivity, inflammatory bowel disease and mental disabilities. But even with these higher associated rates, no scientist can offer a definitive cause and effect between left-handedness and illness.

Critics of older studies say that the research is biased. They say it has been influenced by antiquated theories based on left-handedness as a disorder - a product of an excess of fetal testosterone or developmental instability in the uterus. The latest research says there is little to no proof of these factors being true.

There is some good news. Last year, an Australian study found that left-handed people are quicker while playing computer games and sports.

Do you think that left-handedness has an influence on health? Why or why not? Do you think it's easier or harder to be a lefty in today's world?
Being a left-handed only caused me a couple of problems.
One, from first grade all the way through college there were NO left handed desks. Remember the desks that provided a comfortable place to rest your writing arm? Lefties don't.

Second it was harder to learn to knit;not impossible just a little harder. Because lefties learn how to try a little harder....
My left handedness made playing video games a lot easier for the longest time.

But now with the Wii, many games are being made for the right hander in mind, forcing me to keep my right arm at attention as I blast away foes or swing my sword.

This does not mean I will become average at games. I will excel, us southpaws have always been able to overcome the dasterdly methods of the right hand majority.
Hi :-) Notwithstanding decades of study,scientists.still do not understand why human populations are biased toward right-hand use rather than left-hand use. Scientists disagree over what percentage of human populations are "right-handed"or "left-handed" because there is no standard definition for"handedness" Many left-handed writers have trouble with using writing tools. Maybe I think,left-handed people are more likely to be overweight... Why does the proportion of left-handers in the population not increase?? :D
I guess this explains why I am able to crank out about 125 wpm on my CELL PHONE... i dont even use a qwerty keyboard.. but T9 is my best friend. :)
I am the only lefty in my family. I had a terrible time growing up trying to learn how to tie my shoe since velcro wasn't invented! In school, I had to learn how to use right handed scissors since left handed anything wasn't invented until much much later! I am happy to say I learned by watching and doing everything backwards. To this day, I still have to use regular scissors because I can't cut anything with my left hand!
I think it is easier today being a lefty than it was in the 60's and 70's.
I am very proud to say that I am left-handed, and female (which is even less common). I am an avid sports player and outdoor adventurist, attending college to be a graphic designer (artist) and writer (journalist). I agree with the problem of right-handed desks, and the annoying pen smears as I write or draw. Recently, my friend told me about a website that sells supplies for left-handed people (ex: notebooks, pens/pencils, rulers, scissors). I think that as left-handedness becomes more "recognized" so to speak, companies will 'learn' to make changes in products to suit the needs of left-handed people. In the past left-handedness didn't really exist, everyone was made to use their right hand for common tasks; but things are changing. As for the increased risk for ailments...I will have to read more into that. Thanx for writing the article!
As a child I only had problems being left-handed in school. Once I got older I found that about the only thing that I do with my left-hand is writing. Everything else I use my right hand for. I don't belief that being left-handed is passed down in your family history. I am the only person out of all of my family that is left-handed. And my husband is right-handed and I am left-handed so when I do have a child I will have to see if it is left or right-handed.
Suppose you do things with your left, then do other things with your right? Some things I can do both left and right. I shoot a rifle left handed, a bow, right handed, a hand gun right handed, shoot pool left handed, write with my right hand, can bat either left or right. Am I mixed up?
Growing up, my right-handed mother told me she really couldn't begin to show me how to do things "the left-handed way." She told me to just watch how she did things and then let me figure out what worked best for me. As a result, I do some things much like a right-hander but with my left hand and some things I do mirror image. I think it gave me a great way to work out problems from the very beginning that traditional right hand people might not have right off the bat.
My 2 daughters are both left handed and their mother and I are both right handed. hmmmmmm
Being left-handed made my mother's life intollerable, as she went to school in what was then the Soviet Union. Indeed, they regarded it as an abnormality and forced her to write with her right hand. She writes with her right hand now and cannot use the left hand anymore. It gave her sleep disorders, headaches and nervous breakdowns. Luckily for me, they abolished the "switch" when I went to school... A proud lefty, I use the PC mouse, play bowling and knit with my right hand. The thing is that I was shown to use my right hand for all these activities and it didn't occur to me it could have been adapted for a lefty. I didn't have any problems with it though.
Oh yes, I was told that left-handedness is more common in the Middle East. Can someone tell me whether it's true?
I am left handed and in the IT industry. I have noticed that at both companies I have worked for Lefties represent between 30 and 70 percent of the technical staff. This is intresting because it is way over what would be considered normal distribution.
Like the other poster, I had the problem with the desks. Every now and then, I found a left handed desk. I learned to use right handed scissors, but was thrilled when I found a left handed store that sold lefty scissors, can openers, etc. The best thing I found was left handed nibs for calligraphy pens when I took calligraphy as a teenager. Nowadays, it's easier for lefties because I think the internet allows us more access to left handed products, and more access to other resources for lefties. We are not "sinister."
How does this apply, if at all, to those of us who are ambidextrous? There are three of us that are ambidextrous in my family and two right handed.
I really enjoy being left handed. Even though I was faced with much bias,such as teachers trying to change me even as late as 4th grade, it has helped me in many areas. I am now able to use both hands in almost every area of life. I have had the ability to look at problems from many different ways also.
When I took the ACT, they had to find a left-handed desk for me, which delayed everyone by about 20 minutes..

I have very neat handwriting...

My grandmother was left-handed, but back then, it was thought of as a hanicap so her teacher forced her to write with her right hand, which is why her handwriting is so sloppy now..

Both my grandfathers and my father are left-handed. My 6 year old cousin is ambidextrous.
I am a left-handed 70-yr old female. My father was a "true" lefty who wrote with the backward slant. But there was only one lefty (a niece) in the next two generations of our family.

I believe I had more in common with the men of my generation, worked better with men, and make good business decisions.

I do have some allergy and asthma problems, but stay very active.
My Dad is left-handed, I'm left-handed, and my Mum's sister is left-handed (though they made her use her right hand, and that really messed her up).

I think the one thing I've gotten from it, is the creativity to make use of what I have already. In college, I used to sit in my desk sideways, to solve that problem. Outside of that, it just took a little bit of time to figure out which side I wanted to do something on. In gymnastics, I turned right when going backwards and left when going forwards. I played ice hockey with my right-hand and softball with my left. Now, with Jiu Jitsu, I just have to make up my own way to get into the positions, since I've pretty much become ambidexterous on everything, except for writing.
How about a left-handed friendly digital camera. The newer ones are just about impossible to operate for by a lefty. Kodak are you listening?
Sigh...all that pen ink smeared for all those years. Although I'm a lefty when it comes to writing, I throw a baseball with my right hand. I use a kitchen knife in my left hand, but when eating I cut my meat with my right hand. And for the life of me, I can never remember if I'm goofy foot or regular when I occasionally surf or snowboard! Perhaps it's all those years of living in a right handed world.

Just have to ask...why does everyone exclaim "Oh, you're a lefty!" when they see you write in their presence in the same tone they would say "Wow, you have a third arm!"....?
There's a big difference between mortality rates for lefties in England and the US. British lefties still die younger than righties, but only 2 years (on average) earlier compared with the US (7 years). Almost all of this can be tied, statistically, to head on car crashes. Lefties in the US will swerve into oncoming traffic, and the British to the shoulder/off the road.
So, I have to ask. Was I the only one who used notebooks and binders from the back to the front so I wouldn't have wire or those binder clips digging into my arm?

I actually had a teacher who would grade our make sure we were taking notes or some such blather. Well, she gave me a 70 because I did that. I didnt do it properly, appearantly, of course my objection was, where did you specify that I couldnt write from back to front? Especially when I actually wrote, TURN NOTEBOOK OVER in the front of the notebook. Gotta hate catholic school for some reasons!
I am left handed and still in school. school has been hard for me because i am also Dyslexic so all of my numbers would be backwards, and my handwriting was very sloppy. Teachers did not like this and would make me redo the assignment with all my numbers facing the right way. I still have problems with this and sometimes have to look at anothers paper to see which way to face my 5s or 3s.

As far as tools for righties, I find being left handed an advantage. I golf righthanded but i always carry one lefty with me for hard shots you cant get to. Or pool were you can just switch hands rather that lean way over the table. The link between being ill and left handed, I am not sure if it true for all of you, but other than dyslexica, i have sever allergies, asthma, and i am very clumsy.

I dont think its necessary for companies to mass produce left handed everthing. Even if they offered me left handed computers, desks, cameras, notebooks, siccors and such i would not use them. I am so used to knowing right handed things, and then they would have to add left handed things to all office buildings, schools, public places. that so unecessary.
Throughout school, from the beginning when I wrote with my left hand completely backwards, to later when I had the telling smear on the side of my palm from retracing my writing, I have awkwardly fit into a righty world. But now, I almost forget I am a lefty since most of my paperwork is done by the mostly neutral computer.

I am interested in knowing that lefties may oversample for certain health conditions. That had never occured to me. It's also interesting to hear the recent research that lefties are more likely to be gay. Hand preference is certainly an intriguing mystery!
When I was learning to write, my school used those awful "erasable" pens, which smeared more than the ink on regular pens. To this day I write with my fingers facing me and my forearm perpendicular to my body, which both avoids contact with fresh ink and looks very uncomfortable to onlookers.
I'm a lefty, but my entire family is right handed. My great-grandfather discovered my "gift" when I was a baby as someone would put a spoon or other object in my right hand and every single time I would switch it to my left. I don't write with a smear as a family friend taught me to write (her entire family of 5 are lefties) with my paper turned 45 degrees to the right. It works wonderfully.
I do all fine motor skills like painting, needlework, eating, and writing with my left hand, but all other things right handed like sports and scissors - I CANNOT use the lefty scissors at all! Some things I alternate hands like house painting or cutting things in the kitchen with a knife. I am extremely clumsy at times, but have really good balance. Go figure!
I have a 4 month old son and I think he's going to be a lefty because he sucks his thumb and has an extreme preference for his left hand! Yay!
By the way: Everyone's born right handed, lefties just overcame it!
I am a woman who does all fine motor control things with my left hand, like writing, hand sewing, putting on make-up, etc. I also have a sister who is left handed but, just like me, does all other major motor things like batting, kicking a ball or throwing one, right-handed. Both of our parents are right-handed.
Both of us ARE very good athletes, even now in our fifties, including snow skiing and scuba diving regularly and daily swimming, and are in excellent health. After twenty-five years of doing social work in the projects and retiring from that, I am now finishing my Master's in literature and about to begin my PhD studies in the same, and I read and type really fast. My sister is a labor and delivery nurse and very clever.

I would be curious to find out what the statistical methods and evidence this Dutch study consisted of, including how large a group was studied, and the information about their control group, and other methodology used, before putting too much credence into the statement that left-handed people are more likely to have health problems. It seems printing this might unnecessarily alarm readers who don't have all of that data in front of them, to judge for themselves the reliability of the statistical data.
I also happen to have observed in my literature classes that about 3 in 10 students are lefties, so that is interesting. It also seems, from their comments, that the left-handed persons seem more empathetic and sensitive in their comments about the books or to others, but that may just be my lefty bias: but they do seem more people-oriented. But it is curious that people who want to be teachers, as in many of the students in my classes, or people who were a social worker or a nurse like myself and my sister, seem to often be left-handed: all be involved in various types of "helping" professions.
It seems to me that lefties are perhaps also brighter verbally and not just more dextrous, as in with video games or sports. I used to play Ms. PacMan and Centipede like a fiend before I moved on to other things. I would also like to see some study of their verbal and various types of abstract reasoning abilities as compared with right-handers. For example, who is better at verbal and who is better at math and why, if there is a difference? Of course, there are different lobes in both sides of the brain. I had always heard that lefties were more verbally proficient and righties more quantitatively clever, but I am not even sure if that is true.
Some of the statistic data, numbers studied, etc., for some of those "older studies" mentioned in your article about health risks being higher for left-handed persons mentioned in your article, as well as the more recent ones and their specific data, might be helpful to your readers to see, as I have my doubts about that linkage. And, there's the fact that since I haven't seen those studies perhaps perhaps I just don't want to believe them!
Being a lefthanded in a religiously conservative country I had to change my habit of eating with left hand especially in the public-something i don't think was fair but had to do so. Also many people notice when i write with my hand- i place the paper with the top side facing my right and I look at my writing in a 75 degree angle - this is because i cannot see my writing if i place the paper straight...may look weird but it works for me :)Irshad
are Animals ( with hands) also mostly right handed?
Being a lefty has posed its challenges while growing up. Ever notice how left-handed scissors often just have the handles adapted for lefties, but the blades are still set up for righties? To this day, I prefer right-handed scissors, but can cut with my left.

On the plus side - I have a pretty mean forehand with both my right and left arms while playing tennis.

I can't say being a southpaw has hindered any activity I've learned - from knitting on up to sports. I learned to do most things right-handed, or changed the technique on my own to accomodate my left-handedness.

My father was originally a southpaw (but is of the end of the generation that saw being left-handed as being unacceptable) and I am a lefty. So, I guess we're of the genetic strain of southpaws. I wonder if my 3-year-old will develop a left-handed preference.... she's still fairly ambidextrous at the moment.

I guess lefties just learn to be more adaptable... : )
maybe we have more of the health problems listed because we have to live in a Right Handed World!!!
I had the same issues as a child ... the desk, the ink, etc... I also like many other people do many things right handed -- possibly because no one was able to teach me how to do things with my left hand.

As an adult and mother of two right handed boys, I now find myself running into a problem teaching them. As much as I get involved in their everyday events, there are just some things my husband (also a right hander) has to help them with.

The illness connection is new to me, I have never heard this before and will look into it more ... I've always been a proud lefty.
In kindergarten, I asked the teacher for a pair of scissors that would work for a left handed person. The teacher replied "you might as well get used to it now, the world is right handed and will not make an exception for you." I replied, "why not?" To this day, I have not lost that same sense of spunk that characterized me in kindergarten. The teacher underestimated me. The world may not change for me but I have faired pretty well adapting to it. But I would be curious to know the science that would explain why I was able to learn to use the scissors with my right hand and yet to this day I use a knife in my left hand. If I tried to use a knife in my right hand, I am afraid I might cut my own throat.
Ah the joys of being the only lefthander in a family of seven but having one child each way (our rh daughter is the odd one out!) I have never felt discriminated against either at school or work, master and use technology ok, no particular health problems and can write backwards with ease (a most useful but under-appreciated talent). The only issues I have are with the moulded handles etc that are designed for the righthanded oddities amongst us.
I am left handed and so far so good. I learned to operate scissor with right hand. I eat and write with my left hand. During my highschool years, when I played lady soccer, I kicked the ball with my left foot.

I think the Dutch study is bull!
What an interesting article on
lefthandedness! I very seldom read
comments by readers but was really
into reading comments by my fellow
lefties. There is a huge variety among the lefthanded, due to education
and culture and something you didn't get into in your article.....the seeming fact that no one is really strictly right- or lefthanded, but a combination showing preference for one or the other. While I am a lefty but do lots with my right hand, like use the mouse "over there", my daughter and her husband are much more left handed than me. Eg,I can't use their mouses on the left when I visit them! Both their boys are righthanded, which must make for funny situations sometimes.Sometimes, in social gatherings, I ask people to clap, then freeze to see which hand is on top,(as well as scratching their backs without thinking what hand to use and other stuff) and they are usually surprised to see how many things they do with their left hand "leading" as it were. Pat, Valencia, Spain
I am left handed. My parents are both righties, and my dad is schizophrenic. I was placed in a gifted/accelerated class in school, there were 15 of us and 12 of us were lefties.
My daughter and exhusband are both lefties. Both have OCD, both are very very meticulous....My daughter has alot of emotional problems, reading this, I'm going to explore it more
What does it mean when you're ambidextrous?

I write left handed, bat left handed, and do some other tasks left handed. But I throw, shoot basketball and some other things right handed.
I am left-handed, female, and proud of both. My worst grade in elementary school was penmanship--yes, I was allowed to write with my left hand. Years later my teacher apologized to me for not taking into consideration that she taught the "right-handed" way. I love to knit; I wear my watch on my right wrist, and I wouldn't know how to use left-handed scissors (I always use scissors with my left hand). I can peel apples just with a knife--because those potato peelers are made for right-handers. Thus, I am saving money by having to do it the hard way that becomes the easy way with practice. Furthermore, I believe there are a lot more lefties out there than 10%. How about adding the question about left- or right-handedness to the census?
Well, I'm 52 and have never spent the night in the hospital. I'm just about the only person I know my age that isn't on any prescription drugs. I'm the only one in my family for 2 generations that is left handed. As others have posted, I do a lot with my right hand too.

I'm not a brain surgeon, but I'm not a moron either. I have to agree with the poster who said maybe lefties die younger because of the stress of trying to deal with a right handed world.

My husband is left handed also, but was forced into it because 3 days before starting the first grade, a car door was slammed on his right hand. The teacher didn't want him to fall behind, so she made him switch. How about some studies on people forced to switch to right handedness?

There was an article re: mixed handedness and memory in the APA Monitor. I am mixed handed. Left eye and left foot dominances have probably contributed to this. The jury is still out on hand dominance because there are certain things I can't do (at all) with my right hand, such as, opening jars, buttoning, most sports and fine motor tasks. Any similar cases?
Your Questions: Do you think that left-handedness has an influence on health? Why or why not? Do you think it's easier or harder to be a lefty in today's world?

My answers: Totally not! Any left-handedness is a bit smarter than right-handedness, so they should have good attitude on their health, so the smarter left-handedness should live longer than right-handedness. Statistically speaking, left-handedness lives longer too. It’s not easier or harder for both lefty or rightly in today’s world!
I'm a lefty!!! I do things with both hands but I eat and write with my left. I play the guitar and the violin like a right hander that's just the way I learned. Probably the only problem I've ever had with being left handed was writing in spiraled notebook. I'd flip them over and write the backside. I don't have sloppy handwriting, but I do know a lefty who does. I do believe it could run in the family. My mom's a lefty. My grandmother's ambidextrous so is my aunt. I have about 8 cousins who are all lefties. I didn't realize how much of a lefty I was until I started skateboarding. When I tried it in a righty stance, I couldn't keep my balance. It just feels completely uncomfortable. It's nothing like batting on your right side.
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