Can handwriting analysis predict early signs of heart disease? Seems it can, according to a a new research at the UK's Poole Hospital.
Christina Strang, a handwriting researcher, said that she had analysed the handwriting of over 100 people in their early 60s, including 61 patients at the hospital's cardiac clinic, as well as 41 people who had not been diagnosed with cardiac disease.
She analysed magnified samples of writing for various features, including breaks in the writing, malformed 'o's and resting dots, where the pen rests momentarily in the middle of a pen stroke.
Strang discovered that people in the cardiac clinic group had a statistically significant higher number of resting dots than the control group, especially in the upper middle zone of the letters 'a', 'e' and 'o'.
However, some researchers believe that the study has little hope of being published in a clinical journal.
"I am afraid it does not pass the credibility test," ABC online quoted neuropsychiatrist Professor Perminder Sachdev of the University of New South Wales, who viewed Strang's study, as saying.
According to him, there are problems with the way study participants were selected and studied. He also wonders what possible mechanisms there could be to associate handwriting with heart disease and criticises Strang for failing to offer any interpretation of her findings.
"Is it that the patients are more tired and therefore pause a lot while writing?" he said.
Dr Karen Stollznow of the Australian Skeptics said that Strang appears to be a proponent of the "pseudoscience" of "graphology".
"Graphology is the handwriting equivalent of palm reading," Stollznow said.
She said that while there are scientific approaches to handwriting analysis, which should be referred to as graphonomy, the two terms are often confused and the terms used interchangeably.
"Handwriting production might be affected by some disorders (eg Parkinson's disease) but this is not to say that handwriting style can be an indicator of disease, and specifically heart disease," Stollznow said.
"Simply, there isn't any evidence to correlate heart disease with handwriting style, or to suggest that handwriting style can be used to accurately diagnose illness," she added.
Strang has now planned to collaborate with Dr Andrew McLeod, the senior cardiac consultant at Poole Hospital, to test a much larger group of diagnosed heart disease patients.
She said that while McLeod was initially sceptical that non-neurological conditions could leave their mark in handwriting, he was impressed by the preliminary findings.
Strang hopes one day handwriting analysis can predict the early stage of heart disease without the need for invasive and expensive techniques.
The findings were presented at a recent International Graphonomics Society conference in Melbourne.