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No. 58: Jul-Aug 1988

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Do right-handers live longer?

"Several findings suggest that lefthandedness may be associated with reduced longevity. For instance, Porac and Coren reported that 13 per cent of 20-year-olds are lefthanded but only 5 per cent of those in their fifties and virtually nobody of 80 or above. We believe that this absence of left-handers from the oldest age groups reflects higher biological and environmental risk."

To investigate this asymmetry further, D.F. Halpern and S. Coren repaired to The Baseball Encyclopedia, where longevity and handedness are duly recorded for many players. Here again, they found that, although mortality is about the same up to age 33, thereafter about 2% more right-handers than lefthanders survive at each age.

Halpern and Coren suggest a few possible causes: (1) prenatal and perinatal birth stressors are more probable in left-handers; (2) the immune systems of lefthanders may be reduced by ge netic effects and intra-uterine hormones; and (3) left-handers may suffer more accidents in a world designed for righthanders! (Halpern, Diane F., and Coren, Stanley; "Do Right-Handers Live Longer?" Nature, 333:213, 1988.)

Reference. A variety of handedness phenomena are cataloged in BHB20-23 in Biological Anomalies: Humans I. To order this book, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #58, JUL-AUG 1988. 1988-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987