The length of your fingers, particularly your index and ring fingers, could hold clues to your risk of developing anxiety, ADHD, autism, or schizophrenia, as well as whether you are kind or athletic. The length of the index and ring fingers varies, according to the level of testosterone you were exposed to in the womb. In recent years, researchers have looked at how long the fingers are, compared with one another, and come up with some surprising results.
The testosterone effect
People whose index finger is shorter than their ring finger were exposed to greater levels of testosterone in the womb. This is true for both men and women. Scientists believe testosterone affects finger length during the second trimester of pregnancy when there is a surge in testosterone, although they aren’t sure why this occurs.
In past research, those with shorter index fingers have been found to have better athletic abilities and have a better sense of direction. This phenomenon also has been associated with character traits, such as higher levels of aggression and risk taking, and predisposition to disease. The effect of the exposure to testosterone in the womb lasts throughout someone’s life.
In males, the index finger is usually shorter than the ring finger and in women, the length of these two fingers are often very similar. However, depending on your exposure to testosterone in the womb, the fingers can vary in length. If you place your hands on a flat surface, you should be able to tell which finger is longer or if they are the same. Although not common, it is possible that one hand has a shorter index finger and one has a shorter ring finger.
Longer index fingers
An article, “Finger Length Predicts Health and Behavior” in Discovery Magazine, suggests that longer index fingers are associated with lower risk of knee osteoarthritis in women, a lower risk of prostate cancer in men, and an increased risk of oral cancer in men.
Shorter index fingers
A shorter index finger indicates a higher level of prenatal testosterone. The study at NTNU found that, besides a higher level of athletic ability and a better sense of direction, those with shorter index fingers had a higher risk of developing ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, and autism. According to the Discovery Magazine article, this also can result in increased verbal and physical aggression as well as more risk-taking.
Researchers at McGill University in Canada found that the aggressiveness, however, didn’t carry over to interactions with women. Men with higher exposure to testosterone in the womb and longer ring fingers were politer, listened more attentively, smiled more often, complimented, and were more willing to compromise when interacting with women.
Finger length and schizophrenia
A study in Turkey found a correlation between men’s finger length and schizophrenia. After measuring the fingers on both hands of 203 men, they found that those with schizophrenia (about one-half of the participants) were more likely to have a longer right index finger and the opposite on their left hand.
What to make of the studies
Can you predict mental health and character traits by looking at your hands? Or checking the finger length of your children at birth? Probably not with any certainty. The exact cause of anxiety, as well as other mental illnesses, is not known. Scientists believe they are often a result of a combination of genes and environment. As with many physical illnesses. For example, you might have a family history of heart disease, but if you eat healthy food, exercise, and reduce stress levels, your risk decreases. That means that even if your or your child’s finger length indicates a higher risk, anxiety, or other mental illness, is not a foregone conclusion.
For information on managing anxiety disorders:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.