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Scientists at Liverpool University have found the first objective indicator
of susceptibility to depression - but only in men.
The longer a man's fingers relative to his height, the more likely he is to
suffer from depression - and the strongest single indicator is the length of
his ring finger.
It now seems likely that depression in women has a different and as yet
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found a link between finger
length and depression in men: the longer a mans fingers are relative to his
height, the more likely he is to suffer from depression. The strongest
single indicator is the relative length of his ring finger.
The key to this improbable link appears to be foetal testosterone. Dr John
Manning of the Universitys School of Biological Sciences explains:
Testosterone plays a key role in the development of the male genital
system. It also impacts on the development of fingers and thumbs, and the
central nervous system.
Men who experienced high concentrations of foetal testosterone have
relatively long fingers - in particular, fourth digits which are longer than
their second digits. Conversely, men who experienced low concentrations of
foetal testosterone have shorter fourth digits than their second digits.
102 men and women from different socioeconomic backgrounds participated in a
study conducted by Dr Manning, his colleague Sue Martin and Professor Chris
Dowrick of the Universitys Department of Primary Care. Each had a variety
of physical measurements taken, including their height and the length of
digits 2 to 5 (ie their fingers) from the basal crease to the tip. The Beck
Depression Inventory (BDI) was then used to detect those who suffered from
depression - and to score the severity of their depression.
The results showed that in men - but not women - a high BDI score was
positively related to long digits, particularly the fourth digit. Digit
length divided by height (to take account of the fact that taller men tend
to have longer limbs, fingers and feet) gave an even stronger predictor of
high BDI scores in men.
Foetal testosterone concentrations are the most likely explanation, given
the sex-dependent pattern of the data. Says Dr Manning: Testosterone has
strong influences on the development of the male nervous system - not all of
them beneficial. It is believed that excess testosterone promotes the growth
of the right hemisphere of the brain at the expense of the left hemisphere.
Excess testosterone has been implicated in the origins of migraine, autism,
stuttering - and now depression, too.
The studys results suggest that depression in women has a different and as
yet undetermined origin."
1. The results of this study were published by Martin SM, Manning JT &
Dowrick CF in "Fluctuating Asymmetry, Relative Digit Length and Depression
in Men", Evolution & Human Behaviour 20:203-214 (1999)