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How many people are really left-handed? It’s probably more than you’ve been told

Counting left-handers is very complicated. How do you assess whether people are left-handed? Is a brain scan of hemispheric activity required to confirm?

How many people are really left-handed? It’s probably more than you’ve been told
[Photo: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash]

Today is Left Handers Day, a holiday to appreciate the untold millions of left-handers out there.

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“Untold” because counting left-handers is very complicated. How do you assess whether people are left-handed? Do they write with their left hands? Or kick a soccer ball with their left foot? And what about the many countries in which you’d be hard-pressed to see a left-hander in action, due to cultural pressures to write and eat with the right hand? Is a brain scan of hemispheric activity required to confirm?

You see the problem.

To answer this question, a research team hailing from top universities in Greece, Germany, and the U.K. went big. They studied 2.4 million people through a series of meta-analyses of 262 data sets in 200 studies. They found that 9% to 18% of the population is left-handed, depending on how left-handedness is assessed.

And they found nearly as many mixed handers, who make up 9% of the population and have long been ignored in research.

Left-handedness is quirky, associated with higher drinking rates, older mothers, lower incomes, poor childhood development, and a few recent presidents. (George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama were all lefties.)

The researchers say their meta-analysis is the “largest reported study to estimate the prevalence of left hand preference” to date. You can check out the full findings here.

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So now we know. Think you might be a lefty? Here are two assessments.

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