Left-handed people, who account for roughly 10 percent of the world’s population, experience distinct challenges, benefits, and quirks of daily life that most right-handed people usually never even consider. Over the years, there have been plenty of myths and theories — both good and bad — about what it’s like to be a lefty in a right-handed world. Here are some fun and fascinating facts that you might not know about being left-handed — even if you were born a southpaw yourself, like many celebrated lefties.
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RISKS FOR LEFTIES
Numerous studies over the years have suggested that left-handed people are more prone to certain conditions, including dyslexia, ADHD, and psychological disorders. While the exact reasons why lefties are more prone to these conditions are still being studied, some scientists believe it has to do with how the brain operates differently for righties and lefties. Meanwhile, other studies have shown little evidence linking left-handedness and disorders such as schizophrenia, so the jury’s still out.
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HEALTH BENEFITS FOR LEFTIES
On the positive side, plenty of studies have shown that being left-handed doesn’t have an effect on general health. And in some cases, researchers have found that lefties are less prone to develop certain health conditions, including lower rates of ulcers and arthritis.
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If you’re a lefty, you may want to consider running for president. Several recent U.S. presidents were lefties, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Gerald Ford. Ronald Reagan is said to have been ambidextrous. Further back, James Garfield, Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman were also left-handed. Some scientists theorize lefties are capable of a wider scope of thinking, which makes for a great presidential quality.
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LIFESPANS FOR LEFTIES
For years, lefties were thought to have shorter lifespans than righties, thanks to a 1991 study that suggested they died younger. The study also said it was due in part to driving accidents, leading people to think that lefties were bad drivers. More recent studies, however, have since debunked those theories, and it’s now generally accepted that handedness doesn’t directly affect one’s lifespan (or driving skills).
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LEFTIES ‘DO IT’ BETTER
Any time someone says something negative about a lefty, southpaws can always point to a recent survey that suggests lefties have better sex than righties. Of 10,000 people surveyed, only 15 percent of right-handed people reported being “extremely satisfied” with their sex lives, whereas 86 percent of lefties said they were “extremely satisfied.”
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YOUR BRAIN HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT
Scientist have long thought that being born left- or right-handed is determined by more activity in the left or right hemispheres of our brain during fetal development. But a new study suggests that gene activity in the spinal cord actually determines which hand will be dominant, long before the part of the brain responsible for movement — the motor cortex — is functionally linked to the spinal cord, and could have more to do with environmental factors than inherited genetic traits.
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A ‘SINISTER’ HISTORY
For centuries in many cultures, left-handed people were considered unlucky, weak, crooked, and even evil — the word “sinister” even comes from the Latin word for left. In the Middle Ages, lefties were associated with the devil and often accused of witchcraft, and even as recently as the 20th century, left-handed students were forced to learn to use their right hand. Thankfully perceptions about lefties have greatly improved in recent years.
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SOUTHPAWS DOMINATE IN SPORTS
Lefties — also known as southpaws — have an advantage over right-handed opponents in certain sports, especially one-on-one showdowns in boxing, tennis, and baseball. Because lefties account for only 10 percent of the population, righties don’t train against lefties as often and are less comfortable facing off against them. Conversely, lefties are used to being in the minority and can adjust more easily, giving them a competitive edge.
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BUT SPORTS EQUIPMENT CAN BE CHALLENGING
Since most sports equipment is mostly made with the majority of righties in mind, lefties can have a hard time finding equipment for certain sports. Golf clubs, hockey sticks, and baseball gloves made for lefties are often in short supply, so many lefties are stuck with a limited selection or have to special order their equipment.
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WRITING CAN BE A STRUGGLE
If you’ve ever watched a lefty write, you’ll notice they often smudge their writing as they move their hand over it from left to right — or they’re forced to twist their hand awkwardly to avoid doing so. And let’s not forget about the discomfort of having to rest your hand on a conventional spiral-bound notebook in school as a lefty. While it’s certainly a challenge that can be overcome with practice, the fact that most of us type on a computer these days is a win for smudged and sore lefties.
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LEFTIES ARE GREAT AT MATH
It seems calculating may be much easier for most lefties than writing as studies have shown left-handed people are often better at solving math problems. A recent study showed that left-handed students scored between 5 percent and 10 percent higher than their right-handed counterparts on complex math tests. Lefties are thought to be great problem solvers because they typically use the right side of the brain — which is associated with abstract thoughts and spatial reasoning — than righties do.
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EVERYDAY TASKS CAN BE DIFFICULT
Lefties are often faced with the daily challenge of having to use devices and everyday items that were made for righties, including scissors, can openers, ice cream scoopers, credit card swipers, zippers, computer mouses, school desks and the list goes on. Sure, they make left-handed versions of some of these things, but good luck finding them in regular stores.
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You may not know it unless you asked for their autograph, but many of the biggest celebrities are left-handed. Famous southpaws on screen include Jennifer Lawrence, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, and Morgan Freeman. Left-handed musical stars include Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Eminem.
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LEFT-HANDED GUITAR LEGENDS
A limited availability of left-handed guitars often forces lefties to restring right-handed guitars, learn to play right-handed or fork over more money for costlier left-handed guitars. But those that play left-handed have plenty of rock legends to idolize, including Paul McCartney, and late greats like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and surf rock pioneer Dick Dale.
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INNOVATORS, ARTISTS, AND THINKERS
Throughout the centuries, many of our most celebrated thinkers and artists have been lefties. From Aristotle to Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein to Marie Curie, Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey, our world would be a very a different place without the numerous notable lefties.
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CREATIVITY ON THE LEFT
The lengthy list of artistic lefties, and strong connection lefties have to the right side of the brain — which is linked to creativity — has reinforced the idea that lefties are more creative. But that connection may be more anecdotal than factual. What scientists have found is that lefties tend to be better at divergent thinking, allowing them to think of more possible solutions to a problem than just the obvious. It’s a skill that can certainly help with creative thinking.
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THE AWKWARD DINNER GUEST
If you’re a lefty or you’ve ever sat next to one at dinner, you know that elbow space can be at a premium. Lefties usually end up bumping their left elbow into their right-handed neighbor’s elbow when they eat — not to mention spilling your drink when you collide with righties.
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