A Large-Scale Population Study of Early Life Factors Influencing Left-Handedness

Sci Rep. 2019 Jan 24;9(1):584. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-37423-8.


Hand preference is a conspicuous variation in human behaviour, with a worldwide proportion of around 90% of people preferring to use the right hand for many tasks, and 10% the left hand. We used the large cohort of the UK biobank (~500,000 participants) to study possible relations between early life factors and adult hand preference. The probability of being left-handed was affected by the year and location of birth, likely due to cultural effects. In addition, hand preference was affected by birthweight, being part of a multiple birth, season of birth, breastfeeding, and sex, with each effect remaining significant after accounting for all others. Analysis of genome-wide genotype data showed that left-handedness was very weakly heritable, but shared no genetic basis with birthweight. Although on average left-handers and right-handers differed for a number of early life factors, all together these factors had only a minimal predictive value for individual hand preference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't