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Right-Handed People Live Longer Than Left-Handers. Fact Or Myth?

Right-Handed People Live Longer Than Left-Handers. Fact Or Myth?

Last Reviewed : 01/08/2021
Right-Handed People Live Longer Than Left-Handers. Fact Or Myth?

You have likely read or heard it somewhere that right-handers generally outlive left-handers. Is this a statement of fact or a mere concoction?

Some of the claims are even more specific, claiming that right-handers live nine years longer than left-handers.

It may be true if you believe findings from two studies conducted by two American psychologists, Diane Halpern and Stanley Coren. The two psychologists published their findings in two prestigious scientific journals, Nature and The New England Journal of Medicine in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The studies showed a statistically significant difference in the average age at death between left-handed and right-handed people.

 

Why do right-handers live longer than left-handed people?

According to Halpern and Coren, the explanation behind the shorter life expectancy of the left-handed population can be attributed to the fact that tools are not designed for them.

In this right-hander dominated world, most tools are created in designs that favor right-handed individuals. When you look at it, there are very few tools designed to help left-handed people.

A knife, designed by and for right-handed people, cuts straight for them but in a slanting fashion when a left-handed person uses it.

A related ‘myth’ is that left-handed people die young:

 

Do left-handed people die young?

Notwithstanding Halpern and Coren’s ‘evidence’ that right-handed people live longer, it is not true that left-handed people die young. Longevity and handedness are completely unrelated.

The reason is the two scientists - Halpern and Coren - made a subtle error in their studies. Critics even go further to dismiss these studies’ methodology as flawed.

The study, which was conducted in South California, took a published list of deceased people. The scientists then contacted their relatives and asked about the handedness of their dead relatives.

This created a bias as the scientists only looked at dead people. Left-handers are more common now than they used to be. When the study was published, left-handers were, on average, younger than right-handers.

Taking a single cohort study of individuals who died in 1990 would be biased by the fact that left-handed people then formed a younger group of people statistically.

 

How the myth was debunked even further

The epidemiologist, Kenneth Rothman, explained the Halpern-Coren study’s bias in a series of letters to the editor. According to him, “comparing mean ages at death is a classical fallacy, as it involves comparing only the numerators of rates, rather than rates themselves.

Using the same approach as Halpern and Coren, one would conclude that nursery school is more dangerous than paratrooper training since the mean age at death of children in nursery school is much lower than that of paratrooper trainees.”

A few more researchers also conducted studies on the subject, but none of them showed any statistically significant difference in the average age at death between left-handed and right-handed people.

The explanation that this world and its tools are not designed for a left-handed individual is not substantial and such injuries do not contribute much to mortality. Many left-handers live as long or longer than right-handed individuals.

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