Anything Left-Handed > Blog Posts > Newsletter articles > March 2012 > The Health Risks of Being Left-Handed

The Health Risks of Being Left-Handed

This has been a recurring story over many years – how left-handers are more susceptible to a whole range of diseases and problems, have more accidents, die younger etc etc. We always take these stories with a large pinch of salt and often it turns out the research was flawed or based on very small samples that were not valid, but it keeps us entertained!

The Wall Street Journal ran a nice article on this recently that we thought you may fine interesting and have some thoughts on. It covers, among other things:

* Dyslexia, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD
* Babies born to older mothers and with stress in the womb
* IQ and thinking methods
and references to some interesting studies

Use this link to see the article (link removed – see below)

(sorry, but it seems the WSJ changed the status of this article some time after we linked to it so that you cannot see it all without opening a free account on their site, BUT – you can still see the whole article if you go to it via a search request)

Search for “The Health Risks of Being Left-Handed” in Google or your favourite search engineand you should see a link to the article on online.wsj.com/ near the top

or click this link to go straight to the search results in Google

Please add your comments or any further information on the topics covered in this article below.

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Posted in March 2012

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34 comments on “The Health Risks of Being Left-Handed
  1. Margaret says:

    I am now76. At primary school they tried to change me from L – Rt, my mother a nurse stopped that but I am now ambidextrous !
    I pour milk into a jug with the left and the teapot with the right, use a saw or a hammer in either, would shoot on the left but play tennis with the right . l put on lipstick with the left, sew with the right but thread the needle with the right. Am I mixed up because I was stopped using the right but found it useful ?!!
    I have had a great career and have not found being L handed too akward , though lecture tables are a problem, and scissors were until you came along.!
    I had cataracts done 10 yrs ago and they didn’t ask if I was L or Rt handed and just put the reading lens in the non dominant eye I wonder ifthat is agood idea?

  2. Chandrakant Trivedi says:

    I enjoyed the reading of gr8 information on lefties world. Gr8salute these people who are fighting the brain wars to the system lounched in their brain program against their biological cycles.

  3. Ginger says:

    Shirley S Wang, the author of that piece drivel is an idiot or doesn’t actually care to do thorough research when completing a job. For NOTHING she wrote is accurate toward me and my being a left handed person. My mother was relatively young when she had me…. and happy in her marriage and life. I did not suffer any oxygen deprivation when I was born and I have no mental illness,or ADHD.

    Now I was stressed when I had my kids and ALL of them are right handed. And suffer from ADHD…. hmmmmm…..

    As for other issues regarding my intelligence? I was speaking coherently in complete sentences by the age of 1 and reading the newspaper at the age of 2 . At 2 and a half I helped my grandfather solve word find puzzles by reading upside down peering over his knee…. The ONLY issues I have ever had regarding my being a lefty is the lack of understanding by those who are right handed.

    I do remember when delivering one of my children, making my nurses extremely angry at me for requesting my IV’s be placed in my right hand rather than my left. Their reason for pressing the issue? “It’s always done in the left hand!” my response? “I’m NOT right handed! If you want me to be able to sign anything? Better do it MY way instead of yours. Otherwise I’ll be here indefinitely!” lol

  4. Jack says:

    I have heard that lefthanders die younger and all that. The manner in which this conclusion was formed was by interviewing people over seventy-five years old. They were asked if they were lefty or righty. A disproportionate amount of folks indicated they were right handed. Twenty percent of men in their twenties ate left-handed, but the survey of older folks showed only eight percent. So the conclusion was that lefties died younger. Thus the data caused the hypothesis (backwards science) and very smart people invented the reasons why… I heard about higher rate of heart disease, stroke and all sorts of unfounded possibilities. The only one that held any merit was the occasional accident caused by lefties using right handed things like circular saws that once-in-a-while was lethal to the lefty. But the real answer is that folks over seventy were made to be righty when they were young and were never ware they were lefty or just forgot. Funny, eh?

  5. Vimbai says:

    When l was in primary school early stage, my teacher used to beat because l usually write whilst my book is across the desk. Used to disturb right handed student and started complaining.

    But thanks to my grade 5-7 teacher she taught me hw to right with my book straight and always sit at the edge to the desk so lwont dusturb other while writting. But nw even lm in between lm good at it

  6. Prof. Dr. Roland Riempp says:

    The article has the tendencie to describe left-handednes as some kind of desease or disorder. To me this is a completely erratic approach. I believe that left-handednes is more a kind of a special embossing. Some right-handed people somehow seem to understand left-handednes as somehow abnormous. This seems to be common sense in many cultures. Recently I talked to a student from China who tolk me that in the Chinese culture left-handers are highly respected and are seen as highly capable and wise. This statement strongly astonished and amazed me. This very old culture shows respect to left-handers. Wow !
    Myself I am a complete left-hander and had the luck to not have been forced to write with my right hand. I learn languages very easy, was a professional (left handed) guitar-player for many years, later studied engineering and psychology with best grades and work as a university professor for fifteen years now. Among my collegues there are two other left-handers, both very capable.  

    To all the left-handers out there: left-handedness is not a desease. It may rather be a special gift instead…

  7. Philippa says:

    I remember taking ‘o’ levels in a village hall,we had ‘chairs’ with a board attached on the right hand side.which,obviously was no use to me.The exam had to be delayed whilst a chair and table was found for me,and and I remember the teachers being cross with me for delaying the exam I felt a real nuisance.
    On a lighter note a member of staff recently said to me they hadn’t realised I was left handed and said how sorry they were,which left me speechless!

  8. Omar says:

    It is quite entertaining reading about the misconceptions of us lefties, and trying to explain how we are what we are instead of accepting what we are.

    To answer a previous comment about blood-pressure being taken on the right or left hand, it actually doesn’t make a difference because in the end doctors are measuring your systemic blood pressure meaning that it will be the same in any artery we choose to measure from because it’s a reflection of how much force the heart is exerting to pump blood. We use the arms simply because it’s more convenient and easier than measuring say, your abdominal aorta, or your carotids. (Source: I’m a medical student)

    I do believe that us lefties are awesome because we are unique, but the sad tragedy is we’re the most under-spoken minority of all time !!!

  9. Ann says:

    I could not read the complete article because I did not want to signup for the Wall Street Journal, even if it is free. (I don’t know if it is free.) Too bad the Wall Street Journal blocked this article.

    • Keith says:

      Sorry, but it seems the WSJ changed the status of this article some time after we linked to it so that you cannot see it all without opening a free account on their site, BUT – you can still see the whole article if you go to it via a search request)

      Search for “The Health Risks of Being Left-Handed” in Google or your favourite search engineand you should see a link to the article on online.wsj.com/ near the top

      or click this link to go straight to the search results in Google
      https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=the+health+risks+of+being+left+handed

  10. Susan Berry says:

    I had a hard time at school for being the only leftie in my class. The teachers were all righties and did not even bother to teach me the things I wanted to learn – knitting, crocheting, etc. They just couldnt be bothered. My mum took the time instead to teach me.

    My IQ is 158 which I be,ieve is MENSA standard. Carol Vorderman had better watch out!

  11. Clara says:

    He he he. Ah, how we confuse them!!!

  12. Alan Haile says:

    I have lost count of the number of patronising articles I have read about us poor disabled folk who have the dreadful affliction of using our left hand to write etc. Being left handed has never inconvenienced me that I can remember, except perhaps when years ago trying to do some ironing with a device that had the electric cord coming out of the right side.

    There was a photograph of President Obama and it showed he had his wristwatch on his left wrist. I wear my wristwatch on my right wrist because I fasten it with my left hand, of course. I wonder if he was made to use the left wrist when he first was given a watch and was told that it was wrong to wear it on the right wrist????

    • Julie says:

      About the comment about President Obama’s watch on his left hand.

      I always wear my watch on my left hand, as does my mom (both lefties.) I’m not sure why we do, but we were not forced to do it.

      • Alan Haile says:

        The reason I mentioned it is that I don’t think I could fasten a watch using my right hand, I’m sure that I would drop it.

      • Larry says:

        Julie, I wear my watch on my right wrist. I just have to take it off in order to reset it because the stem is on the wrong side for me. Maybe thats why some lefties wear it on their left wrist. I started wearing it on my right wrist because being the batting practice pitcher in high school baseball practice, my watch tended to fly off my wrist when I threw the ball. I use a Speidel band instead of a leather band with a buckle. It drives me to distraction to have a watch band flop around on my wrist and leather bands stretch and become loose.

    • gillian says:

      To me it is common-sense to wear a watch on your non-dominant hand. Apart from it being easier to fasten the strap, you are less likely to damage the watch.

  13. Rhonda mills says:

    My uncle was born left-handed to an older mother, age 41.

  14. Kota says:

    It’s odd that lefties supposedly have greater chances of mental disorders when every single person I’ve ever known that has one of those disorders is right-handed. And since I work for a psychiatrist, that’s a lot of people

  15. Tolu says:

    In a world where you are regarded as odd by 90% of the population, it is no wonder there is a higher incidence of dyslexia, schizophrenia or ADHD… It takes a lot to come to terms with one’s left-handedness. And statistics can be used either way… as you said, all to be taken with a large dose of salt. I am 67, very healthy, with 2 children who are of mixed left-handedness (one very strong 90-10, one more like 65-35 – me, 80-20), and I am now at an age when anything said about left-handedness (clumsiness etc) is simply ignored. But, as you noted, entertainment they provide.

  16. Lynn says:

    Not sure about health issues but I find I’m very accident prone. The layout of shops, homes etc mean I’m liable to bump into things or find the space arranged gives little room for lefties to reach or move the left arm. I always thought it was me, not so sure now.

    • Teresa says:

      I was born left-hamded [1965] and switched around age 3 or 4 when my mother saw me colouring with my left hand. She said everyone uses the other hand at school. So I write with my right hand but most everything else I can use both hands pretty equally. I can use a hammer, screwdriver, scissors [provided they are lefties] equal. I can paint a room and I do switch hands often and can do the fine motor coordination of cutting a room with my left. I can mirror-write and am exceptional at reading “backwards” to do word search games.

      I also am very accident-prone and sometimes a clutz. I suffer from ADHD and moderate to severe depression and a bad anxiety disorder. Could it be related to the fact my mother had only buried her first-born child nine months before concieving me? Besides being switched from leftie to rightie?

      He was 7 years old and tragically killed by a car crossing the street. They talk about a mother’s emotional state of mind while a fetus is in the womb.

      • gillian says:

        I was shocked when my mother took a pen out of my daughter’s left hand and put it in her right. [daughter was then aged 2] W When I said ‘Don’t do that.” Mother replied she wanted to see what happened. My daughter transferred the pen back to her left hand, and started to draw.
        What struck me, was she held it with a grown-up grip. Also, like me she never developed a hook, which looks awkward, even to LH.

        • Janet says:

          I often wonder why lefties grip the pen differently. My grip is mirror image to righties and I always get startled reactions when people notice that I am not right handed. It’s funny when they say, “I didnt know you were left handed!” I never thought to announce it and I wasnt keeping it a secret! 🙂 Most of my friends happened to be female lefties in high school and I could NOT drive a stick shift car if it was reversed. I would probably get into a wreck!

  17. Kathy L. says:

    I believe Gerald Ford was also Left Handed.

  18. Diane Milne says:

    I was born in 1943. I had a very progressive teacher who went to bat with the school board and got them to agree to allow me to remain left handed. My parents were interviewed and the fact that they were both doctors greatly assisted their decision. I remember so well how members of the school board were periodically paraded into my classroom to stand at the back of the room to watch me write with my left hand, and answer questions and generally display that, in spite of my handiness, I was happy and well adjusted. It seemed strange to me, as a little girl, at that time but I was very, very happy to be left alone because I have always been totally left handed with my right hand only there for decoration.
    Both my children were very carefully watched when it came to which hand would be their dominate one. I always put every spoon or toy or drink etc right in the middle of their high-chair tray to see which hand reached out to take the item. I might have saved myself the effort as both ended up naturally left handed.
    Lack of oxygen at birth used to be a popular explanation for left handiness. I didnt suffer from lack of oxygen at birth. My children were born naturally, without drugs and weighed in at almost 9 lbs and almost 11 lbs and oxygen, or lack thereof, was not an issue. I was an older mother but certainly didnt have stress in my life. My grandmother was 42 and my grandfather was 67 when my mother was born, and she was right handed. Explanations and conclusions about being left handed all seem to go round and round without any lasting thoughts that stand the test of time.
    It has been fun to watch how the number of lefties has increased compared to that time, long ago, when I became the first child in my city to remain a leftie!

  19. Jenny says:

    That article in WSJ was appallingly written and researched and absolute rubbish.
    It made no sense at all. The first part that really annoyed me was about mothers’ who have a stressful pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a leftie – so that would mean there would have been a huge bell-shaped curve of lefties being born during 1939-1945, yes? Throughout Europe, UK, Aust, Canada and NZ,surely?
    What about Jews, talk about a stressed nation of people – are they all left-handed, especially if born during the above years? It would have been incredibly stressful to be a pregnant Jewish woman then, wouldn’t it? Do a niche study there and see how that theory holds up. By rights there shouldn’t have been any right-handed people born at all then based on that research.

    The article jumps all over the place and seems to me, a rightie, to be a complete attack on lefties.
    What on earth is Wall Street Journal doing writing articles such as this? Is it a sciencific or medical journal?
    It is interesting to note that Forbes now uses computer robots to write some of its articles so perhaps WSJ is doing the same. this article is that sort of standard – nothing to do with the ethics of WSJ at all. Where there is no news then make it up.

  20. Catriona MacGregor says:

    As a lefthander I felt the need to add content about health problems, recently I had to undergo a period of blood pressure checks, that showed consistently high dastolic pressure readings, all blood pressurechecks were taken on the left arm, later i was asked to undergo an ECG Scan, again the pads were paced on the lefthand side the normal procedure for a righthanded person, after the scan and three blood samples taken from the left arm I had a blood pressure test for the right arm, the reading showed a 142/106 which is quite serious, and could have been missed altogether had the last test been taken on the left arm, I may have to take blood pressure tablets due to the repeated insistence of the Medical team that it “does not matter which arm is used for the test, even Heart Surgeons need to follow a different procedure when it comes to operterating on a lefthanded patient, what do You think about this issue,

    • gillian says:

      I am a retired healthcare assistant. The ECG pads are placed on the left side, because the heart leans towards the left. It is nothing to do with the majority being RH. I have nursed a patient who has a condition called DEXTROCARDIA, where the heart is on the right side of the chest. He did not need an ECG, but if he did, then I the ECG pads would have to be reversed.

  21. Elisabeth says:

    Typical ignorant right-handed bias. That article is outrageous!

  22. Angela says:

    “…..a greater risk of difficulty with language?”
    I am a left-hander who has been reliably informed (by my parents) that at 19 months of age I was speaking 7-word sentences.
    At the age of 5.5 years I had a reading age of 12.5 years.

    • gillian says:

      My mother told me that by the age of two, I could recite every nursery rhyme. I can also remember using ‘baby talk’ to my younger brother, consciously imitating the way adults talk to babies. [There is only 14 months between us.]

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