24 Things You Didn't Know About Left-Handed People

Female Left Hand Holding a Red Pen with Blue Ink, Doodling Flowers on a Blank Sheet Journal with the Right Hand Holding It


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Female Left Hand Holding a Red Pen with Blue Ink, Doodling Flowers on a Blank Sheet Journal with the Right Hand Holding It

On the Other Hand

Left-handed people, who account for roughly 10% 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. 

People Celebrating International Lefthanders Day in Leicester Square, London on August 13th, 2002
People Celebrating International Lefthanders Day in Leicester Square, London on August 13th, 2002 by Dubaj~commonswiki (CC BY-SA)

Left-Handedness Has a Holiday

Aug. 13 is International Lefthanders Day. The special day for southpaws was first observed in 1976 by the founder of Lefthanders International Inc., Dean R. Campbell, and was created to raise awareness of the advantages of disadvantages of being a lefty in a predominantly right-handed world.

Wiccan Altar with Opened Spell Book Surrounded By Lit Candles with a Feather Pen, a Replica Human Skull, and Mirror
Vera Petruk/shutterstock

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.

Young Girl Covering Her Head in Her Folded Arms on a Pile of School Books on a Red Student Desk with a Green Chair in Elementary School

There Are Potential Health 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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A Middle-Aged Woman Holding Her Wrist with Her Other Hand, Hurting with Arthritis, While Sitting on an L-Shaped Grey Couch

... But There Are Also Health Benefits

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.

Queen Bed with White Sheets and Duvet Cover with Three Baskets Framing Edge, Foot of the Bed, Two Matching Nightstands on Both Sides, with a Matching Headboard

Lefties 'Do It' Better

Any time someone says something negative about a lefty, southpaws can always point to a survey that suggests lefties have better sex than righties. Of 10,000 people surveyed, only 15% of right-handed people reported being "extremely satisfied" with their sex lives, whereas 86% of lefties said they were "extremely satisfied." 

Former President Barack Obama Waves to the Crowd Before He Delivers a Speech at the New Opera of Athens, Greece
Ververidis Vasilis/shutterstock

There's a Presidential Preference

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. 

Male Left Hand Holding a Grey-Rimmed Pair of Left-Handed Scissors
Octavian Lazar/istockphoto

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 mice, school desks, and the list goes on. Sure, they make left-handed versions of some of these things, but good luck finding them in most stores.

Focus on Young Boy Concentrating While Holding His Head with His Hand, Holding a Pencil on Book While Sitting at a Student Desk at Elementary School
Aleksei Potov/shutterstock

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.

Confident Young Girl Counting on Her Fingers at a Wooden Table with Her Mother Sitting By Her Side Helping Her with Her Math Homework
Uber Images/shutterstock

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. One study showed that left-handed students scored 5%-10% higher than their right-handed counterparts on complex math tests. Lefties are thought to be great problem solvers because they typically use more of the right side of the brain — which is associated with abstract thoughts and spatial reasoning — than righties do.

Smiling Angelina Jolie Wearing a Black Dress, Arriving for the World War Z World Premiere, at Empire Leicester Square, London
Featureflash Photo Agency/shutterstock

There Are Plenty of Celebrity Lefties ...

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 musicians include Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Eminem.

Jimi Hendrix and Noel Redding Performing Live Onstage While Filming German TV Show 'Beat Club'
Bob Baker/Redferns/Getty Images

... And 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 and Kurt Cobain. 

Smiling Oprah Winfrey Waving and Wearing a Blue Dress at the AFI FEST 2009 Screening of 'Precious' Held at the Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood

Many Innovators, Artists, and Thinkers Are and Have Been Left-Handed

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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There's 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.

Focus on Nik Turley Delivering a Pitch While on the Mound in a Baseball Game
Aspen Photo/shutterstock

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% 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. 

Focus on Two Male Hands Holding a Left-Handing Golf Club, with the Clubhead on the Palm of the Right Hand

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.

A Man's Hand Places a Red Rose with Stem on a Horizontal Granite Gravestone Next to a White Rose with Stem on the Left

The Notion That Lefties Have Shorter Lifespans Is a Myth

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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The 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 2017 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.

Focus on a Toppled Wine Glass with Red Wine Spilt on a White Tablecloth Next to a White Napkin, Both Stained By Red Wine

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 their drink when they collide with righties.

Green Road Sign 'Left Hand, Unincorporated' Along the Side of the Road, Welcoming Those Entering Left Hand, West Virginia
Green Road Sign 'Left Hand, Unincorporated' Along the Side of the Road, Welcoming Those Entering Left Hand, West Virginia by Jimmy Emerson, DVM (CC BY)

Left Hand Is a Place You Can Visit

Want to celebrate your southpaw status? Consider visiting Left Hand, an unincorporated community in West Virginia. Unfortunately, however, there isn't a festival dedicated to left-handedness or even a Leftorium — the town was named after a nearby creek, Lefthand Run.

Golden Retriever Giving Left Paw to Smiling Man Holding It with His Wife Smiling, Both Looking at the Dog

Your Dog Could Be a Leftie

A study overseen by James Cook University Townsville veterinary lecturer Janice Lloyd found that almost 50% of dogs favored their left paws. Another fun fact? Kangaroos appear to be almost exclusively left-pawed. 

Middle-Aged Mother Back Facing the Camera, Holding Her Baby Up, Baby is Facing the Camera Looking Off to the Left

Older Women Have More Left-Handed Babies

According to one Canadian study, women in their 30s and 40s were far more likely to have left-handed children than younger women. A study of 2,228 college freshmen found that those whose mothers were aged 40 and over when they were born had more than twice the rate of left-handedness as those with moms who had them at 30 or younger.

A Neanderthal Man Painting with His Left Hand, a Bison, in a Cave with Two Clay Bowls Near

Left-Handedness Was Also Uncommon Among Early Humans

University of Kansas researcher David Frayer discovered that left-handedness was an anomaly 500,000 years ago — just as it is today. How, you might ask, did Frayer make this discovery? By analyzing scratch marks on early humans' teeth. Frayer also hypothesizes that because there's a link between speech and handedness, Neanderthals likely had language capacity.

Focus on One DNA Molecule in Shades of Blue on a Darker Blue Background

Scientists Don't Know Exactly What Determines Left-Handedness

There is no single gene responsible for handedness. In fact, the largest ever DNA analysis on the subject found 41 spots in the DNA linked to left-handedness. Even epigenetics — how the environment affects gene expression — seem to play a role. So contrary to popular belief, there isn't a simple answer as to why certain people are left-handed.

Left Handed Girl Holding a Black Pen Writing Homework in Notebook, Selective Focus
Gabriel Pacce/istockphoto

Left-Handed People Predominate in Western Countries

Whereas countries in Asia and the Middle East have around a 6% rate of left-handedness, Western nations come in at 13%. This might be slightly counterintuitive when you think of writing systems. Cultures in the Middle East and Asia tend to write right to left, which would be advantage for left-handed people. And yet, the highest incidence of left-handedness is in countries where individuals write from left to right.