Ratios are very important. They make your bike move more quickly, they can make your meals healthier – a higher veggie-to-fat ratio is always good – and they can be the difference between life and death. Now, new studies are showing that ratios can predict mental disorders.
Disorders like schizophrenia, a chronic debilitating mental disorder, might be predictable based on your digit ratio. What’s a digit ratio? Your digit ratio is the difference between the length of your index finger and the length of your ring finger.
A high digit ratio means your index finger is longer than your ring finger. A low digit ratio means your ring finger is longer than your index finger.
Now that you’re all looking at your hands, I can give some context to this study. The research was done between 2012 and 2013, where Turkish scientists measured the fingers of 103 men with schizophrenia and 100 men without the disorder. They then measured the length of the index finger compared to that of the ring finger.
Your Finger Length May Mean More Than You Realize
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Digit Size Matters
The results showed that those with schizophrenia had a higher digit ratio on the right hand in comparison to the “healthy” men. On the other hand, the schizophrenic men had lower digit ratios than those without the disorder – their left ring finger was longer than their left index finger.
“Our results suggest that the finger-length ratio has a moderate predictive value for schizophrenia,” says study author Taner Oznur, MD, from Gulhane Military Medical Faculty in Ankara, Turkey.
But where is the real connection between the length of someone’s fingers and a mental disorder? Earlier studies show that a disturbance of male hormones in the womb can influence the way the brain develops. Hormone levels also influence the size of your fingers.
Dr. Oznur suggests that the imbalance is seen during the third month of pregnancy but because of certain ethical limitations it is difficult to evaluate and assess. “We thought that digit ratio can offer an indirect measure for this evaluation and may reflect early deformities in the brain,” he says
Previous studies also relate finger length to mental toughness. A small study from the British Psychological Society associates low index ratio and mental toughness and an aptitude for sports (in men).
“It appears that high prenatal levels of testosterone may result in increased mental toughness, optimism, and hence aptitude toward sport,” study author Jim Golby, PhD, head of research in sport and exercise at Teesside University in the United Kingdom said in a statement. “This provides tentative support for the conclusion that mental toughness may be partially biologically predetermined.”
There are however discrepancies. Where are the women in these studies? What about the scores of folks whose finger-ratio didn’t correlate to any mental health issues? How much weight should we really place on the length of our fingers?
Not much, experts say.
So Many Factors
“Although I do think this research has potential for understanding the complexity of factors that go into the development of schizophrenia, it is just one potential factor among many and provides another clue for researchers to explore,” says Ben Michaelis, PhD, a clinical psychologist. Dr. Michaelis was not involved with the Turkish study.
As I mentioned, women are terribly underrepresented in these studies, leaving a glaring hole in the findings. Oznur says more research is needed to confirm or disprove any of these findings.
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