MAY 24, 2009 + AUGUST 2012 UPDATE

About Cheiro's Life Line & 'Longevity' Theory!

Scientific research confirms that there is a link between longevity and the length of life line. What are the implications?

Studies presented by researchers from the US (1974) and UK (1990) suggest that some part of Cheiro's revelations about the length of the lifeline and 'longevity' might actually be true. However, one could wonder why those studies were never rewarded with follow-up research? A review of the results + a new explanation (2012) why the link between the length of the life line and the age of death (confirmed in the UK study) does not support Cheiro's theory at all!

AUTHOR: Martijn van Mensvoort


The right hand of the famous palmist Cheiro.

Cheiro said about the life line: 'the Line of Life relates to the natural length of life'.

After a 1974 US study had indicated that an 'interrupted life line' could possibly relate to a rather young age of death, a more solid 1990 UK study presented results describing a strong correlation between the length of the lifeline and 'longevity' - or: the age at death! This article unveils some interesting details in those studies featured with an analysis of... the life line of the famous palmist Cheiro himself, who appears to have outlived his own lifeline! Is the length of the lifeline really a reliable indicator for longevity? Likely not at all ...!

The study presented by Newrick, Affie & Corrall (Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1990) was focussed on the hands of 100 people who had died. The premise of the UK study was found in the palmistry literature, and especially the work of Cheiro - the work of palmists Peter West & Francis King is also mentioned. The researchers used a rather remarkable method with a piece of string to measure the relative length of the lifeline (controled for hand size). The results of the study revealed very high significant correlations for: the age of death & the (relative) length of the lifeline - especially in the right hand, but in the left hand as well.

This article summarizes the most interesting details, including: the research method used in the studie, the results, a description of Cheiro's 'line of life' theories , and ... a high quality handprint of the most famous master palmist of all times himself! And finally the life line in the righ hand of Cheiro (who's real name was William John Warner but he also went by the name Count Louis Hamon, or Count Leigh de Hamong).


The researchers included the following introduction of the lifeline (a.k.a. the 'Line of Life' or 'life line') in their article:

" Palmistry is concerned with the interpretation of the lines on the hand which indicate the development of various personality traits as the subject matures and develops throughout his life Knowledge of past, present and future events can be gained from studying these lines.

The lifeline is an indication of constitution and physical well-being
(Peter West, The life line. In: Life Lines, chapter 9, 1987), and of general vitality (Francis King, Principle lines of the hand. In: Palmistry, chapter 4, 1987), while its length indicates natural life expectancy apart from accidents (Cheiro, A few remarks in reference to the reading of the hand. In: Cheiro's language of the hand, 1900).

Such beliefs have not been formally tested. We have therefore examined the relationship between lifeline length and age at death. We have also examined the influence of the hand size on longevity."

The Line of Life in palmistry.
'The map of the hand' - as presented by Cheiro (1900).
NOTICE: The green line + yellow (dotted) line are included for the purpose of this article - to explain the measurement of the length of the Line of Life see the next paragraph.


The researchers included the following method description for the measurement of the lifeline (Line of Life / life line):

"Observations were undertaken by a single observer in 100 consecutive autopsies."

The researchers used a piece of string to measure the length of the lifeline.

'Ozon friendly measurement equipment':
A piece of string + ruler: used by the researchers to measure the 'actual' length of the lifeline + the 'potential' length of the lifeline.
" The lengths of the lifeline in both hands were measured by laying a prestretched piece of string (see figure on the left) along the hand line before transferring to a ruler to read off the length to the nearest millimeter. The lifeline was identified with reference to the work of Cheiro, undisputed doyen [= senior] of palmistry.

During the measurements the hands were prised open and maintained in a standard posture by an experienced mortuary technician."

" It is clear from Cheiro's own illustrations of palms that the 'Line of Life' [= the green line in the 'map of the hand' - see picture above] has a maximum course over which it may run. This would extend from the intersection of the distal end of the 'Line of Life' with the radial edge of the hand to the intersection of the proximal end with the distal palmar crease [= the yellow (dotted) line in the 'map of the hand' - see picture above]

This potential maximum lifeline length was also measured as a way of controlling for hand size.
The ratio of actual Line of Life length to its potential maximum was calculated.
We called this the 'CORRECTED LIFELIFE RATIO' [= LL/MAX].

The age of death was taken from the hospital notes and recorded to the nearest whole year. Analysis of the results was not undertaken till completion of the study and was performed by one of us (PGN) not involved with the data collection. "


The researchers described the results of their study as follows:

" Actual and potential maximum lifeline lengths were measured on both hands of 63 males and 37 females. The table (below) shows the correlation matrix obtained and the figure (right) shows a scatterplot of the lifeline ratio against age at death. "

-Correlation matrix - lifelines & age at death
- ------------------ Age ------------------------------- P<
- RLL----------- 0.39 (0.21-0.54)*--------- 10-5
- LLL----------- 0.34 (0.15-0.50)*--------- 10-3
- RLL/max---- 0.55 (0.40-0.88)*--------- 10-8
- LLL/max---- 0.43 (0.25-0.58)*--------- 10-5
- R(L)LL = Right (Left) Lifeline Length
Max = Potential maximum for lifeline length
* = 95% confidence intervals
Scatterplot of the lifeline ratio (= RLL/max) versus age, for the right hand.

Scatterplot of the lifeline ratio for right hand [= RLL/max] versus age (Newrick, Affie & Corrall, 1990).

A close association was demonstrated by regression analysis which yielded the following equation which was not materially improved by incorporation of data from the left hand:

Age at death = 105*(RLL/max)-27

Additional statistics for slope: F-value=42,03, P<0.00000001; 95% confidence intervals 73-138.

Patient: 'I am glad that make life line looks good doctor... but I was rather hoping for a more comprehensive check-up'.
Doctor gives patient a 'life line check-up'.
What can we learn from those results?

The researchers describe the following in their discussion:

" Palmistry has been the focus of heated argument since the first mention of its techniques in Indian and Chinese manuscripts of at least 3000 years ago. The science and popularity of the subject were brought to their peak by society palmist Louis Hamon, either better known by his pseudonym of Cheiro.

Cheiro made many predictions from scrunity of his clients' palms including forecasting the course of the career of the famous barrister Marshall Hall, and the dates of death of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.

Not moving in such elevated circles we have not attempted to test such predictions. The present study has therefore attempted an evaluation of a single aspect of palmistry, namely, the relationship between length of lifeline and longevity.

We have minimized the effect of hand size (ie the bigger your hands the longer you live) by expressing the length of the lifeline as a ratio of the theoretical maximum it could run. Using this ratio we have found a strong statistical correlation, particularly for the right hand, and age at death."

Can the results be explained by a 'spurious' effect?

Sceptics may argue:

  • 'Where are the "living" controls?'
  • 'Is the relationship confirmed when using other statistical criteria?'
  • 'What do we really know about the hand creases? We know: creases can change during a lifetime (sometimes very quickly), and who knows, do the elonguate with age?'
  • 'And how about the role of dexterity? In a 100 cases one can expect about 10 cases to be left-handed, correcting for handedness - would that alter the results?'

  • The researchers describe the following in their discussion:

    "Observer bias is possible though this was minimized by concealing the hypothesis from the measurer and recording age from the notes after the lines have been measured.

    With increasing age we all become more wrinkly and this may equally apply to palmar creases such that they elongate with age."

    Research on hand lines has been done for quite a few decades now, but there are not many sources available which make reports on changes in the primary creases.* Nevertheless, we must notice in this perspective that professor L.S. Penrose (an expert in dermatoglyphic research) stated in 1973 in his famous article 'Fingerprints and palmistry' that the lifelines may become more complex as age increases. However, at certain ages the reverse may also be true: there are reports availabe that describe that at young age primary creases may get shorter; this has especially been noticed regarding the unusual long version of the head line - a.k.a. 'the Sydney line'.

    * NOTICE - The primary creases include: the life line (= longitudinal transverse crease), the head line (= proximal transverse crease), and the heart line (= distal transverse crease).

    The researchers also stated in their discussion:

    "Unravelling this would require a case-control study with living controls - or better still: an 80 year prospective study in exotic locations to report preliminary results. "

    A reader of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine commented ironically (1991):

    'Regarding their suggestions of 10-year meetings in exotic locations,
    may we suggest... Las Palmas for the first conference?'

    MAY 28, 2009 - UPDATE:

    After the publication of this article, my collegue
    Lynn Seal proposed another interesting (older) study focussed on the potential relationship between the length of the lifeline and longevity.

    The results of that study were officially never published - but the research have presented some of their results via various sources, including a letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Wilson & Mather in JAMA, 1974) and in a more obscure journal 'The Actuary, 1974'.

    Fortunately, some of the data of the 1974 study became available in a manual for 'Practical Stastics' (see menu: Excell Project - chapter 1). Unfortunately, the data of case 51 is missing in that data, but nevertheless it is for sure interesting to take a look at some details in the results of that study:

    Scatterplot of the lifeline versus age, for the left hand.

    Scatterplot of lifeline vs. age for left hand (Wilson & Mather, 1974).

    • The researchers described that they found positive correlations between for the length of the life line and 'age at death', for both the right and left hand - however the strength of the effect is far from 'significant' (P=o.05). After correction for body length the correlations were still positive, but not even close to 'significant'. The data for the left hand is presented in the figure on the left.

    • Interestingly, the researchers also revealed that in 6 subjects they have found an 'interrupted life line in one hand'; however ... they decided in these cases to use the full length of the life line.

    Maybe the researchers should have wondered:

    "...would Cheiro have ignored the break in the 'line of life' as well???"

    Anyway, in the figure on the left, anybody can notice that: the 2 subject who died at the youngest age... both had an 'interrupted life line in one hand'!!!
    So, one could wonder:

    Why did the researchers ignore that fact? Another example: from the 7 subjects who died at age 50 or earlier, 3 of them had the 'interrupted life line' (NOTICE: in 1974 the average life expectancy was already close to age 70).

    And what would have been the implications for the results when the researchers had NOT ignored the interruptons? The postion of the red dots would have shifted to a much lower location, likely below the position of all other dots!

    Though, the same can be said about 3 of the 6 yellow dots: their position would likely shift to a much lower location as well. Regarding the exact implications We can speculate (as the details for the yellow dots are missing) howevever if the highest positioned yellow dot (at age 82) doesn't have the 'interrupted life line', a correction for 'life line interruption' of the data would likely produce a higher correlation!

    And finally, one can only wonder:

    ... when will the first study be presented that considers both the LENGTH of the life line and the presence of INTERRUPTIONS in the life line?

    AUGUST 25, 2012 - UPDATE:

    During the past 3 years quite a few people have been wondering about the implications of the results presented by the studies. Therefore this update is presented to explain both the results and the implications more thoroughly.

    (First we'll take a closer look at the 1990 results and then we will see how a short life line can be recognized as an indicator for abnormal form or funtion in the early developing hand!)

    1990 Study: average age of death for life lines of equal length.

    1990 Study: average age of death (A) for equal life line length groups (pink color zones) reveals a strong link!

    A closer look at the results of the 1990 study reveals that the average age of death (see the "A"-s in the picture above) is getting smaller for hands with a likewise life line length. And it's quite fascinating to see how the averages (A) are positioned creating the impression that they almost form a straight line!

    However... the pink zones are most realing in this picture. Because the pink zones show that the ages of the subjects in each 'equal length of life line'-group tends to vary between 25 years and 50 years!

    So, despite the rather impressive very significant result according the statistics - the truth is that the length of the life line does not reveal much about the age of death in an individual at all. Because within the groups of individuals who have a life line length that is about equal, the actual ages of death in the individuals tend to vary up till about 5 decades!!!!

    What's the explanation?

    Then, how come that the average age of death does vary significantly between the groups that have a short life line compared to the groups that have a long life line?

    Well, the explanation is found in findings reported by other researchers:
    scientific studies of palmar and digital creases in the developing hand revealed that in malformed hands the major hand lines tend to reflect the consequence of early flexional folding in the skin of the developing hand.

    For example, regarding the life line studies have indicated that a malformation in the thumb (by shape or function) typically manifests via the shape, location and path of the life line! Thus any alteration from the normal life line shape may be interpreted as being secondary to abnormal form and/or function of the early developing thumb (or some other hand- or body part).

    And researchers have found that such knowledge may be of diagnostic value in particular syndromes, as well as being of functional significance in serious malformations of the hand. However, both the 1990 study (picture above) and the 1978 study (picture below) show that length of the life line can not serve as a reliable indicator for 'longevity' and at best can be understood as a variant of a 'minor physical anomaly' (which are generally only seen in less than 3% of the population).

    By the way, in the fields of palmistry it has recently become evident that success-stories about accurate predictions regarding life span typically relate to people at a very high age, people who have a life threatning disease, and people who died within months or only a few years after the prediction. Which kind of suggest that firm claims in this perspective should generally be taken... with 'a pinch of salt' (and in many regions around the world it can be recognized as a piece of folklore - often presented to foreigners visiting the country, etc).

    1978 study: average age of death for life lines of equal length.

    1978 study: average age of death (A) for equal life line length groups (pink color zones) reveals no link.


    As stated before, Cheiro associated the length of the life line with the length of the natural life expectancy apart from accidents. To learn and understand his style of thinking we can study some of his related quotes from his most famous work:
    Cheiro's The Language of the Hand (originally published in 1900):

    Count Louis Hamon - pseudonym: Cheiro.
    Cheiro made various comments regarding the length of the life line.
    Part II, chapter I: 'A Few Remarks in Reference to the Reading of the Hand', page 70-71:

    "The chief point of difference between my teachings and those of other writers lies in the fact that I class the varous lines under different heads, treating of each particular point. This will be found not only more easy and less puzzling for the student, but also more in accordance with reason. For instance, I hold that the Line of Life relates to all that affects life, to the influences which govern it, to its class as regards strength; to the natural length of life, and to the important changes of country and climate. I regard the line of head as related to all that affects mentality, and so on with every other line, as will be seen later. "

    Part II, chapter V: 'The Line of Life', page 80:

    "The Line of Life should be long, narrow, and deep, without irregularities, breaks, or crosses of any kind. Such a formation promises long life, good health, and vitality."

    Part II, chapter V: 'The Line of Health, or the Hepatica', page 109:

    "My theory, and one which I have proved by watching the growth of this line on the hands of children and young people, is that it rises at the base, or on the face of the Mount of Mercury, and as it grows down the hand and into the Line of Life, so does it foreshadow the growth of the illness or germ of disease which at the time of its coming in contact with the line of live will reach its climax. I wish to call special attention to this point; also to another, namely, that the Line of Life merely relates to the length of life from natural causes, but if the hepatica is as strongly marked as the Line of Life itself, their meeting at any point will be the point of death. Also, no matter how long the life line may seem to be, any abnormal development of the line of health will cause the death of the subject."

    Part II, chapter V: 'The Line of Life', page 79:


    What we know as life it but existence,
    A waiting-place, a haven by the sea,
    A little space amid immeasured distance,
    A glimpse, a vista, of that life to be.


    Obviously, Cheiro's additonal revelations were not included in the British research. One may wonder how the results would have been if the corrected lifeline length measurements (RLL/max and LLL/max) were also corrected for Cheiro's additional suggestions for the prediction of an unnatural cause of death.


    Cheiro presented his own handprint in his famous 'Cheiro's language of the hand': see the picture below!

    (For your information: Cheiro presented only the palmprint of his right hand in his books)

    Interestingly, Cheiro's
    life line is clearly visible on the print - which provides us the opportunity to make a 'life line analysis':

    The handprint indicates that Cheiro's life line starts out outside of the palm (between the thumb and the index finger), while his life line appears to end at a point close to the border of the lower quarter of the mount of Venus (tenar). The first bracelett (racette) in his wrist is just visible on the print (only a few mm's from where the printet area of his palm ends).

    NOTICE: Cheiro did not have an interruption in his life line (but he did have a 'splitting life line' - the potential effect of that aspect is not clear).

    Now, take a look at Cheiro's palmprint & read further below...

    The handprint of palmist Cheiro - a.k.a. Count Louis Hamon from Ireland.

    Cheiro's handprint: how long is his 'Line of Life'?

    When using the measurement method described in the 2th paragraph of this article, one could find that Cheiro's 'CORRECTED LIFELINE RATIO' is close to: 0.82 (= RLL/max).

    The inclusion of that result in the formula presented by the researchers gives:

    (Cheiro's) age at death = 105*(RLL/max)-27 = 105*(0.82)-27 = 59.1 years

    Cheiro (1866-1936) died at age 70 - about 10 years later than indicated by the length of his lifeline.
    So likely, we can safely conclude... that Cheiro outlived the length of his own 'Line of Life'!

    (Which sort of confirms again that the life line in an individual is not a reliable indicator for the person's 'life span'!)


    This article presents confirming reassurence for readers (and other people) who discovered that the length of their 'Line of Life' is rather short: because even the 'Godfather of palmistry' lived longer than indicated by his theory... and the length of his life line!

    PS. The same can be said about the majority of the people included in the British sample: almost 60% of those outlived their 'Line of Life'.

    FULL ARTICLE: 'Relationship between longevity and lifeline: a manual study of 100 patients.'
    BUY AT AMAZON: Cheiro's The Language of the Hand


    C.L. Jones: 'Lifeline and longevity'
    S. Lewis: 'Relationship between lifeline and longevity'
    • J. Verbov: 'I don't fancy palmistry'


    The simian line: a notorious hand crease!
    The Sydney line: a fascinating hand crease!

    More articles presented by about the simian line:
    Gift markings in the palm of your hand!
    Medical assessment of the lines
    PsychoDiagnostic Chirology
    Psychotic behavior & the simian crease
    Male female differences in the hand
    The Sydney line in hyperactive children & developmental disorders
    The simian crease: a notorious hand line (review)
    The Sydney line (review)
    Cheiro & the line of life
    Did Albert Einstein have a Sydney line?


    Martijn van Mensvoort - Hand Research

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