Journal Article

Handedness and mortality: a follow-up study of Danish twins born between 1900 and 1910

Basso, O., Olsen, J., Holm, N. V., Skytthe, A., Vaupel, J. W., Christensen, K.

Epidemiology, 11:5, 576-580 (2000)


The declining prevalence of left-handed individuals with increasing age has led to two main avenues of hypotheses; the association is due either (1) to a birth cohort effect and/or an age effect caused by a switch to right-handedness with advancing age or (2) to mortality selection that reduces survival in left-handed individuals, or both. It is uncertain whether a cohort or age effect can explain the decline in age-related prevalence, and conflicting evidence exists in favor of the mortality hypothesis. We compared mortality in a subgroup of 118 opposite-handed twin pairs by counting in how many instances the right-handed twin died first. There was no evidence of differential survival between right-handed and non-right-handed individuals in the entire 1900-1910 cohort. With respect to the number of right-handed twins who died first, there was no material disadvantage among those who were not right-handed. In 60% (95% confidence interval = 49.0-71.5%) of dizygotic pairs, the right-handed twins died first. In 50% of monozygotic pairs, right-handed twins died first. The prevalence of not being right-handed was higher among males (9.2%) than females (6.5%); there was a similar frequency of non-right-handedness in monozygotic (8.0%) and dizygotic (7.8%) twins. We did not find evidence of excess mortality among non-right-handed adult twins in this follow-up study. (© 2000 LIPPINCOTT WILLIAMS & WILKINS)