Left-handers 'more likely to get hurt'

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The Independent Online
Left-Handed children are significantly more likely to have an accident requiring hospital treatment than their right-handed school friends.

Psychologists who investigated 5,000 children in Scotland found that over a 12-month period, those who were left-handed were up to 50 per cent more likely to have an accident needing an overnight stay in hospital.

One possible explanation is that left-handed children are brought up, often by right-handed parents, relatives and teachers, to believe they are clumsy.

Nearly half of the left-handed children reported having an injury that needed medical attention of some kind, according to the research of 11- to 15-year-olds by Peter Wright, senior lecturer in psychology, and a team from the University of Edinburgh.

While some were treated by a local doctor or nurse and not admitted to hospital, 21 per cent of left-handers had treatment requiring at least one night in hospital compared to 14 per cent of right-handed children. One in four of the left-handed reported between four and 10 injuries in a year.

The research comes in the wake of other studies which have shown that left-handedness is a significant risk factor in adults. One study found evidence of a link between left-handedness and longevity among 3,000 cricketers.

The increased risk has often been put down to the fact that most things are designed for the right-handed majority, thus making life more difficult for the left-handed with a greater potential for accidents with machinery and equipment.

But there are other theories too, including the idea that left-handed children may be conditioned into believing they are clumsy.

Mr Wright said: "Left-handed children report themselves as being more clumsy and are told more often that they are more clumsy by parents and other people. They have this perception of themselves as being slightly more vulnerable.

"That may be because that is the case, or it may be because as they go to school and learn skills and perhaps are not as effective at some things as others, this leads to a bit of scapegoating, so you get a weakness of self-esteem.

"This may mean that you get a self-fulfilling type of situation, like, 'I know I'm not very good, whenever I try this kind of thing I fall down, trip over...'," he said.

The team suggest that hospital casualty units should record handedness of patients to establish the extent of the link between left-handed people and a higher accident risk.

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