7 Downsides to Being Left-Handed
The world has been out to get lefties for thousands of years. And while we no longer force 10% of the population to learn to write with their right hand or burn them at the stake as witches, the odds still aren’t stacked in their favor.
1. They Are Left Out of Studies
As Northwestern University psychology professor Robin Nusslock told the Wall Street Journal, many studies about how the brain works specifically prohibit lefties from participating. Researchers do this because they know that left-handed people’s brains are wired differently than righties. Since researchers want their results to accurately reflect the vast majority of the population, including left-handed people would throw off the results. That means when you read an article about some new breakthrough in understanding how our brains function, it most likely isn’t something that directly applies to 10% of people. The same exclusion used to apply to women, until President Clinton signed an act requiring that women be included in clinical trials. Since President Obama is left-handed, perhaps he should insist lefties get equal treatment themselves.
2. They May Get Paid Less
Full disclosure: this one is contentious. Some studies have found there is no difference between handedness and how much a person makes. However, a seminal study by Harvard University found that lefties make 10% less on average than their right-handed counterparts. This may be due partly to the fact that lefties are less likely to complete college. The same researcher found that despite the oft repeated claim that lefties have higher IQs on average than righties, left-handed people actually score slightly lower on math and reading comprehension tests.
Another study published in The Journal of Human Resources found that while left-handed men’s salaries were comparable to righties, left-handed women made significantly less.
3. They're Easier to Scare
In one study at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, right- and left-handed people watched clips from Silence of the Lambs. Afterwards, the researchers asked the subjects to talk about some of the scarier scenes from the film. The lefties overwhelmingly gave more fragmented, inaccurate accounts with more repetition. Researchers already knew that lefties are almost twice as likely to suffer from PTSD as righties, and it doesn’t take a majorly disturbing event before differences in our fear levels start to show. Scientists think this may be because the right side of a lefty’s brain is dominant, and that is the side that controls our fear response.
4. They Get Angrier Faster
Various studies have found that lefties are quicker to anger than righties, but until recently no one knew why. In 2010, a paper in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease posited that it was because left-handed and ambidextrous people’s brain hemispheres interact more than right-handed people’s. While this might sound like a good thing, it means that logic (mostly left brain) and emotion (mostly right brain) get mixed together more often than is “normal.” As a result, things that 90% of the population could deal with calmly are more likely to anger lefties.
5. They're Linked to Schizophrenia
Scientists know that being left-handed is at least partly down to genetics. A person has a much greater chance (26%) of being a lefty if both parents are southpaws. And research has even isolated the gene that may contribute to handedness. The bad news? The gene, LRRTM1, also appears to have something to do with people developing schizophrenia. Only 1 in 100 people have the disorder, but an inordinate 20% of suffers are left-handed.
6. They Drink More
Back in the 1970s, a paper called “Left-Handedness and Alcoholism” raised the possibility that left-handed people were more likely to be alcoholics than right-handed people. The study was purely observational, however. Until recently, no hard evidence existed that linked handedness to drinking habits. It turns out that lefties aren’t more likely to be genetically disposed to addiction, but on average they do drink more often, and in greater quantities than righties. Since excessive alcohol consumption alters your brain chemistry and can eventually lead to physical dependence, this may be one possible explanation for why the previous study noticed a prevalence of left-handed alcoholics.
7. The World Is Trying to Kill Them
The world isn’t just driving lefties to drink, though. It’s also killing them. Left-handed people seem to expire anywhere from a few months to a few years before righties, all other things being equal. One of the deadliest problems is simply that the world isn’t laid out best for lefties. This leads to left-handed people being five times more likely to die in accidents than right-handed people.