Left handed survey results

Our survey is about which hand left-handers use for various activities, how left-handedness runs in families and how left-handers are affected by their hand preference. Thank you very much to all of you who completed the survey and we have now analysed the results so far, which make some interesting reading.

If you have not completed the survey yet, click here to add your experiences and views
(sorry, we are not taking new submissions for this survey at the moment)

These links take you to the sections of our results analysis below or you can just scroll down the page to see it all.

Who took part in the survey?
How does left-handedness run in families?
Which hand do left-handers use for various activities?
What are the effects of being left-handed?
How does being left-handed help or hinder?
Complete the survey (not taking new submissions for now)

Who took part in the survey?

39% of our survey respondents were male and 61% female. It is generally thought that there are slightly more male left-handers than female so does this just reflect the fact that males are less likely to fill in surveys?

The ages of the survey respondents were: Under 18
19-29
30-39
40-49
50-59
60 and over
9%
13%
31%
21%
14%
11%

 


How does left-handedness
run in families?

We asked about the handedness of family members to see whether being left-handed runs in families. No-one has yet discovered a gene that causes handedness but anecdotal evidence indicates that it does run in families.

The results below show the percentage of left-handers for each family member, based only on the surveys completed by left-handers as “you” and ignoring all blank boxes. For example, 14% of left-handers had a left-handed mother but only 5% had a left-handed grandmother on their mother’s side (grandmother2).

Grand
parents
%
Parents
%
YOU and siblings
%
Your children
%
Grand-
father 1
13
YOU
100
Child 1
15
Grand-
mother 1
6
Father
13
Brother / sister 1
13
Child 2
16
Grand-
father 2
6
Mother
14
Brother / sister 2
13
Child 3
14
Grand-
mother 2
5
Brother / sister 3
7
Child 4
8

 

  • In total, 11% of all left-handers’ direct relatives were also left-handed
  • The handedness of their parents was slightly higher then the generally accepted level of 10% of population being left-handed (although this figure itself has not been established by any proper large scale survey)
  • Left-handedness seems to reduce with additional children, both with the person’s own brothers and sisters and their own children. Could it be that the more children you have, the less left-handed they become?
  • Left-handedness among grandparents is below average current levels. This may be due to the fact that at the time they were young, left-handedness was much less accepted and many people were forcibly changed to the right
  • Only 1.4% of left-handers in the survey had both parents left-handed, 24% had one left-handed parent and 75% had two right-handed parents

Which hand do left-handers
use for various activities?

We asked which hand people used for the following tasks and the results below show the percentage who used the left.

Activity
Left
Writing and drawing
98%
Cutting with scissors
68%
Brushing / combing your hair
98%
Holding a toothbrush
92%
Using a knife to cut, without a fork
88%
Using a knife with a fork (knife hand)
26%
Using a spoon (on its own)
95%
Throwing a ball
68%
Holding a racquet (e.g. tennis, squash)
83%
Unscrewing the lid from a jar (lid hand)
84%
Kicking a ball (kicking foot)
82%
Holding a golf club, cricket or baseball bat
(left hand on top, facing to left side = right-handed!)
59%
Looking with one eye (e.g. telescope)
75%
Listening with one ear (cupping to hear more clearly)
70%
  • Writing is the most common indicator of handedness so we can expect a very high percentage of people who consider themselves left-handed to use that hand for writing
  • Where left-handers have a free choice, they usually use their left-hand, giving high percentages for all the tasks where the “tools” are ambidextrous, such as brushing hair
  • The low percentage for using scissors probably reflects the lack of availability of left-handed scissors causing many people to change their hand rather than struggling with backwards scissors that don’t cut properly
  • There is a very low percentage of people who eat left-handed with knife and fork (i.e. with the knife in their left hand and fork in the right). We don’t find this surprising as it is consistent to always feed yourself with your dominant hand – 95% of left-handers use a spoon on its own in their left hand and 74% also use a fork in their left hand. We think there has been some historic mistake here – using the fork in your left hand should be called “eating left-handed” and it is the right-handers who have got it all wrong and change their feeding hand depending on whether they are using a spoon or a fork.

What are the effects of
being left-handed?

We asked about what effect being left-handed had on our respondents’ lives and this is what they told us.

Do you consider yourself to be more or less intelligent than average? More
58%
Ave
41%
Less
1%
Do you consider yourself to be more or less creative than average? (art and music, generating ideas) More
48%
Ave
43%
Less
9%
Do you consider yourself to be more or less awkward or clumsy than average? More
85%
Ave
0%
Less
15%
Did you experience any difficulties at school related to being left-handed? Yes
71%
No
29%
If you had difficulties, did you receive any help from teachers or others? Yes
24%
No
76%
Have you ever been discouraged from using your left hand for anything? Yes
39%
No
61%
Have you ever used any specialist left-handed implements? Yes
61%
No
39%
  • Some research has shown that left-handers are more intelligent and we certainly seem to think so ourselves, with 58% of left-handers considering themselves more intelligent than average!
  • The same goes for creativity, with 48% considering themselves more creative than average
  • Having 85% considering themselves more awkward or clumsy than average was a surprise – we thought that it was right-handers who thought that about us. However, it does show the extent to which living in a right-handed world has a negative effect on us.
  • 71% had difficulties at school, mainly with writing, but only 24% got any help – which is a bit sad when a bit of basic help can make a great difference. Some of the comments we got were:
    “At school smudged work, but received no help to overcome problem”
    “Not much awareness or understanding in 70’s and 80’s (still!), was tested by “specialist” to determine the extent of my “disability”
    “Was given pen with left handed nib as matter of course” (hooray!)
  • We were a bit surprised that, even in these days, 39% had been discouraged in some way from using their left hand
  • We were very surprised that 39% of left-handers had never used a specialist left-handed implement! With all the great left-handed products available, we thought all left-handers had at least tried them to see if they made a difference. The most popular item was left-handed scissors
  • The most popular subjects at school were maths and art, with over 40% of all left-handers giving one of these two

How does being left-handed
help or hinder?

We asked whether there any ways in which being left-handed particularly helps or hinders you, and we got some great comments – here are some samples:

I think that I problem solve in my own kind of way – often people don’t understand my thinking as it appears non logical – but to me it seems considered.. OK its a right handed world but I LIKE BEING DIFFERENT.
Difficult at meetings and conferences – seating/table space assumes right handedness. Very few items of business equipment allow for left-handedness
Signing credit card slips in on shop machines, using cheque books, smudging writing when using anything but a biro pen
Hinders when I’m sitting next to a righty when eating.
If being left handed is what makes me so creative then that is a particular help. I think through growing up using right handed things you get used to it.
When using right handed scissors it leaves me with sore thumb and fingers sometime resulting in blisters.
All life is hard if you are left handed
I believe that all left-handers see and experience the world from a slightly altered perspective than a right-hander and this I take to be an advantage.
Believe being left-handed enables you to see the world in a different way to right handers for some reason. Seem to be less conformist and able to see things from a different perspective. Amazed growing up – things that may have seemed so obvious to me – while rest of family (with exception of other left-handed members – father & brother) – could not see them at all. Makes one feel bit of an outsider with friends (majority right-handed). Found it difficult – growing up – to find people to relate to on same level / similar wavelengths.
Dance, ice skating, tin-openers, anyone else’s computer, writing desks attached to conference chairs, table settings – I often drink someone else’s wine, many other things
It’s always a conversation piece huh guys!! They know we’re better
Helps: using a mouse and writing simultaneously (righties can’t do that!)
Helps – Playing racket sports (opponents seem to get confused)
As I am only 4 years old I am unable to answer these questions
For my work I am able to visualise pipe layouts underground which helps me solve problems.

Thank you to all the left-handers
who completed the survey

We hope you have found the results interesting and amusing – at least we all know there are millions of other left-handers out there facing the same challenges and getting the same benefits.

We will be following up the survey with a series of in-depth reports on particular aspects of being left-handed and we will publish these on the Anything Left-Handed website at as well as sending them to all registered Left-Handers Club members.

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22 comments on “Left handed survey results
  1. Gilda Haber, PhD says:

    I am a PhD social psychologist very interested in left handers. Would you kindly let me know how you selected your respondents?

    I have three left-handers (that I know of) in my family. I know how to design and collect data/information and have many publications. I have a theory on left handers that you have not mentioned.

    Please give me more info on how you selected your respondents, i.e. those whom you questioned, and what percent answered. Did more men than women get approached and or answered? Thanks.

  2. Pixie says:

    As with many things in life, medicine is more difficult if your left-handed as everything is set up without a thought for us, but it’s easy comapred to haing to use s dip pen when I was at school, aged 8 in France in the 60’s. The inkwell was at the top right hand corner of the desk. All my work was marked ‘sale’ (dirty) because of dripped and smudged ink. I was hit with a ruler because of it.
    Still, I managed to learn good hand writing in the end to the point where I often used to get comments such as “you’ve got very neat hand writing for a doctor’ and I used to add left handed and female.

  3. William Bard says:

    Question for everyone, when I was about 9 years old I wrote with my papers almost upside down with my wrist bent as far as it would go, when my teacher first noticed this she encouraged me to try and keep my wrist straight, with out much luck I was too used to the way I was writing. One day she came in with a device to keep my wrist straight, she may have made it herself, it was a ruler or slat inside a leather sleeve that had straps at one end and in the middle, she put it on the inside of my arm and into the palm of my hand then strapped it to my forearm, so I couldn’t bend my wrist. Has anyone had a similar experience? It took a few weeks, but I learned to write with my paper top up and my wrist straight. Have never met anyone with a similar experience so I’m thinking she thought it up and made it herself.

  4. Joan Lougheed says:

    If 10% of the world is left-handed, why are we not acknowledged by business organisations? Even the arts and writing equipment is produced for right-handedness an the areas where the percentage is dramatically increased? Wouldn’t it be a simple thing for companies who offer a free pen inscribed advertising your business – no left hand option is offered!? Maybe this shows the lower intelligence of right-handers.

  5. John says:

    I am 74 and the only lefty except for one maternal aunt. I shoot rifles and bows right handed, bowl and golf left. However I can shoot a pistol with either hand. I think a lot of lefties become good with either hand just to be able to function. Writing has never been a problem, I do not curl my hand around like a lot of lefties, just moved the paper.
    I learned cursive in school and had nice hand writing.

  6. Tony says:

    My saying goes: Left handers aren’t born frontwards or backwards – left handers are born oddwards.

  7. Grace Dunworth says:

    Although I am 85 years old, after my first teacher saw what a mess I made using my right hand I was allowed to use my left hand! My hand-writing was never very good when I was young, and I remember vividly being punished (with the ‘strap’) for smudged work.
    Sewing was difficult, but I worked out my own way of coping well.
    My left handedness became more of an asset when as a primary school teacher I was able to support my left handed pupils.
    I use cutlery as righthanders, except soup spoons, where I revert to my left.
    When I was in my 60s I took up calligraphy which I enjoyed.
    I was taught knitting by my right handed grandmother, who assumed
    I would copy her way of using the needles, and it presented no problem.
    I have never, however, been able to cope with crochet!
    I play the piano, and I think it is an asset.
    Altogether, I love being left handed, and wouldn’t change for the world!

  8. DAVID STUBBINGS says:

    I take part in church bell ringing (Campanology) and I ring lefthandedly. Frequently I am the only one in a band to do so. You really have to have some knowledge off bellringing to understand this, but I hold the tailend rope in my right hand and use the left as the main hand on the “Sally.” The vast majority do the opposite. I have to be careful to straighten the rope before starting or else i can get a twst in it. Bellringing is good physical and mental exercise

  9. Paula says:

    Thank ya`ll for conducting this survey! It`s nice to know we have kindred spirits of all ages & from all over the world! I`m 61 yrs old, it has been difficult trying to live in a right handed world all my life. My sister tried to get me to write right handed, but, when she couldn`t change me, she “showed” me how to write with my left hand, but, not curving my hand above the words I wrote. A little wierd, but, I`ve still got pretty handwriting! And with the proper pen (thank God for left handed pens) it looks a lot better with no smudges! Thank you for your services!!!

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