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Left-handed people are more likely to be mentally ill – now we know why

Published Oct 19th, 2022 6:07PM EDT
person suffering from mental illness, depression
Image: Marco / Adobe

Left-handed individuals only make up 10 percent of the world’s population. Despite that small number, 40 percent of all cases of severe mental illness come from left-handed individuals. Scientists aren’t quite sure why mental illnesses have a higher chance of manifesting in left-handed people, but they believe it could be directly tied to the way their brains are wired.

Mental illness isn’t something to balk at. In fact, most of us suffer from some kind of mental disorder or illness at some point in our lives, be it a psychotic disorder or depression. But, the fact that left-handed individuals have always had a higher chance of being associated with those more severe mental illnesses has been baffling.

To truly understand why this might happen, we have to look at the differences between a right-handed and a left-handed brain. Our brains rely on a process called lateralization, which lets our bodies create areas of “expertise.” This separation allows for more efficient processing. And, some believe it could also allow for higher chances of left-handed individuals experiencing mental illnesses.

left-handed person writing in journal
Your dominant hand may also play some part in your brains susceptibility to mental disorders. Image source: Bits and Splits / Adobe

The cause for left-handedness in the brain comes down to a number of possibilities. Things like genes or even environmental stressors can lead to “lefty brains”. Recent research into the genetics important to brain development has shown that certain genes are associated with left-handedness. As a result, those genes may also play some part in why left-handed people experience more severe mental illnesses.

But, as Big Think notes in a report, these theories are not proven, and there could be other reasons behind why left-handed individuals experience higher rates of mental illnesses that are more severe. But, at the moment, it does appear that some of the stressors that can cause left-handedness, such as subtle brain damage or even less brain lateralization, can lead to higher chances of mental disorders.

But that doesn’t mean that being left-handed is bad. In fact, there are a number of benefits that left-handed individuals can count on – such as increased skill at fighting and competing. In fact, some researchers say that left-handed individuals are more like than right-handed individuals to become elite athletes.


Looking for more science news? Scientists recently treated terminal cancer using a modified herpes virus. Plus, a professor rediscovered a “miracle plant” previously believed to have been extinct for over 2,000 years.

Joshua Hawkins fell in love with writing and technology at a young age. Eventually he decided to combine the two and started writing about video games, the latest tech, and all the cool gadgets he could find. Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.