20 Little-Known Facts About Being Left-Handed
Myths, facts, and left-handed history
With just 10% of the population being left-handed, it can be easy for everyone else to forget we're living in a right-handed world. But aside from making it tough to cut a straight line with a pair of scissors designed for righties, being a southpaw can also have some subtle effects on our physical and mental health. The brains and bodies of lefties may operate differently than those of right-handed people (and in mixed-handed people, who may have different dominant hands for different tasks). "Handedness seems to be determined very early on in fetal development, when a lot of other things about your future are being determined as well," says Ronald Yeo, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Texas-Austin.
Here's a look at some of the most common facts about being left-handed, and what it might really mean for your health.
It's not just genetics
It's linked to stress in pregnancy
RELATED: 15 Factors That Affect a Woman's Fertility
It's more common in twins
Neither of these is true, but left-handedness is about twice as common in twins than in the general population. A 1996 Belgian study found that about 21% of twins, both fraternal and identical, are left-handed.
Your brain doesn't work all that differently
It may cause you to think differently
RELATED: 17 Ways to Age-Proof Your Brain
It can affect school performance
Mixed-handed and left-handed children are more likely to use the two halves of their brains in unusual ways, which may put them at risk for mild learning disabilities, says Yeo. At the same time, however, some mixed-handed kids have an unrelated learning disability that's making them struggle to decide which hand to write with. Either way, most kids catch up with their classmates as they get older, he saysbeing left-handed or mixed-handed isn't a surefire predictor of how well kids perform as they grow up.
It's linked to a risk of mental health problems
RELATED: 12 Ways We Sabotage Our Mental Health
It does offer an advantage in sports
It may make for better fighters
It doesn't make you more creative
RELATED: 11 Secrets to All-Day Energy
It doesn't mean you're artsy
It's linked to a higher risk of breast cancer
RELATED: 12 Things That Probably Don't Increase Breast Cancer Risk
It doesn't affect your general health
RELATED: 12 Strange-But-True Health Tricks
It's linked to some sleep problems
It may help protect against ulcers and arthritis
It doesn't impact longevity
RELATED: 21 Reasons You'll Live Longer Than Your Friends
It may up the risk of PTSD
It doesn't make you a bigger drinker
It might mean you earn less money
Overall, handedness doesn't really matter
Grimshaw agrees, noting that mixed-handers seem to differ from "strong handers," much more than left- and right-handers differ from each other. "However, we really don't know much about the brains of mixed-handers, because we've been so focused on the left-handers," she says. "Hopefully we'll have a better understanding of them soon."
One thing is for sure, Yeo says: We shouldn't assume much about people's personalities or health just because of the hand they write with. And we certainly shouldn't worry about lefties' chances of success: After all (as of 2015), five of our last seven U.S. presidents have been either left- or mixed-handed.