Do left-handers die sooner than right-handers? Commentary on Coren and Halpern's (1991) "Left-handedness: a marker for decreased survival fitness"

Psychol Bull. 1993 Sep;114(2):203-34; discussion 235-47. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.114.2.203.


Cross-sectional life span studies of handedness typically show decreasing percentages of left-handers in older age groups. In an article in Psychological Bulletin, S. Coren and D. F. Halpern (1991) argued that this age trend reflects the shorter life span of left-handers than right-handers. They presented 2 studies of their own providing what they regard to be direct evidence that left-handers, on average, die sooner than right-handers. They also proposed a variety of reasons for what they called left-handers' "decreased survival fitness." I discuss Coren and Halpern's reasons for rejecting a more conventional explanation of the life span data; the 2 studies that they offered in support of their argument; their analysis of other evidence they invoked to account for left-handers' putative decreased survival fitness; and, finally, new studies in which the longevity explanation was tested by more direct means than have been used thus far. I conclude that the case for the "decreased survival fitness" hypothesis cannot be sustained.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bias
  • Child
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Humans
  • Longevity*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity