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Nimis's avatar

Is there any real correlation between handedness and average life span?

Asked by Nimis (13255points) October 7th, 2008

I’m sure we’ve all heard that old “statistic” that right-handed people live (on average) five (or so?) years longer than their left-handed counterparts.

• Can we really chalk it up to the dangers
of operating machinery in a right-handed world?

• Or shall we blame the increased prevalence of various
mental disorders linked with left-handedness? (ie LRRTM1)

• Or what about the theory that left-handed people live longer
because they are better utilizing the muscles around their heart?
(Or something like that.)

• While I’m tempted to call it a load of hooey, there are (seemingly valid) studies that correlate certain levels of intra-uterine testosterone to a predisposition for left-handedness as well as certain immune system disorders.

• Though if the former is true, would the creative side often associated with left-handedness be inherently masculine?
Or have I gone on a totally unsubstantianted tangent here (as usual)?

What thinks you?

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8 Answers

EmpressPixie's avatar

I would chalk it up to lefties living in a righty world giving them unfairly shortened life averages.

Harp's avatar

The study most often cited as demonstrating a correlation between handedness and longevity (Halpern DF, Coren S. Handedness and life span. N Engl J Med, 1991) was based on analysis of records of 2,271 deceased baseball players, noting age at death for right- and left-handers. Their methodology has been repeatedly called into question.

This study failed to take into account the fact that fewer and fewer children are forced to change handedness over the past decades, which has resulted in a much higher proportion of lefties compared to half a century ago. This creates the illusion that the proportion of lefties declines as a population ages, but this illusion disappears when specific age cohorts are studied.

A group of Brits followed this up with an study of 6,173 cricket players. Their methodology was carefully constructed to exclude the factor of forced handedness switching. The results showed no difference in mortality between righties and lefties when unnatural causes were excluded.

There is mixed opinion on whether lefties are more accident prone. A Swedish study of 49,321 military conscripts found no significant difference, except for motor vehicle accidents. The study speculates that the cause may be a right-biased layout of driver controls.

deaddolly's avatar

i’m a lefty. I don’t think of myself as accident prone. I do quite well, thank you! I remember my teachers giving me a hard time in grade school. My daughter is left handed as well, and they actually tried to get her to change the way she held her pencil.
I don’t consider myself overly creative, but I do have a good imagination.
And I wanna be around just as long as you righties!!!!

Nimis's avatar

Emp: You mean physically or psychologically?

Harp: Good stuff. Particularly the skewed results due to a dying practice.
Though the pool of participants always bothered me about studies.
Even though it’s not as crazy physical as other sports, I’d imagine any sport player to be more robust than the average person. While I originally meant that in regards to immune system, I’m now thinking it might also apply to being mentally robust as well?
Robust! Haven’t used that word in ages. Kind of diggin’ it again. Robust!

Dea: I’m surprised they tried to switch her.
As Harp said, I thought that had kind of died out.

deaddolly's avatar

Nimis; It wasn’t so much try to switch her, it was trying to make her write in a way that was uncomfortable for her. I went ballistic and paid a little visit to the teacher.

Harp's avatar

@Nimis, yes, studying an athletic population might introduce its own biases into the results, but there are very few other sources of records that reliably indicate the handedness of members of a given population. That’s the problem facing researchers in this matter; where would you go for records of thousands of people, the majority of whom are already deceased (the nature of the inquiry establishes this condition), which also indicates reliably which hand they preferred?

I take it you’re a lefty?

Nimis's avatar

Dea: Hmmm…I wonder why a particular way to grip a writing instrument is deemed proper?

Harp: I think a lot of studies are also done with conscripted men?
You can definitely get a large pool of participants. But every group has its biases.
Makes research interesting, but endlessly frustrating.

Used to be…my parents switched me.
The running joke is that they were trying to extend my lifespan.

deaddolly's avatar

Nimis; my thoughts as well. evidently the teacher didn’t like her style of cursive. that matters so much in life…

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