Researchers have shown that people with weaker hand grip strength in midlife and early old age are more likely to develop problems such as loss of independence and to become frail and have shorter life expectancy. This information is only useful to GPs and hospital doctors if they can identify which of their patients have ‘weak’ grip strength in comparison with other people of the same age and sex.
Scientists from the MRC LEU and the Hertfordshire research team combined 3,000 measurements of grip strength from members of the 1930’s birth cohort with information from 11 other British studies to create a mega-dataset of grip strength measurements from 49,964 people aged four to ninety years old. Reference charts were produced which show how grip strength changes across life for men and women (see below).
The grip strength charts show that men were generally stronger than women from teenage years onwards, but both men and women reached a maximum peak level of strength during their thirties before becoming weaker with age.
The charts show that people of the same age can have very different grip strength measurements. GPs and hospital doctors could use these charts to work out whether a patient of a particular sex and age has weak grip strength and might be at risk of frailty and loss of independence. Care plans could be designed to help these patients build their muscle strength, keep active, and to keep their independence.
The published paper describing this work may be found here:
Dodds RM, Syddall HE, Cooper R, Benzeval M, Deary IJ, Dennison EM, Der G, Gale CR, Inskip HM, Jagger C, Kirkwood TB, Lawlor DA, Robinson SM, Starr JM, Steptoe A, Tilling K, Kuh D, Cooper C, Sayer AA. Grip strength across the life course: normative data from twelve British studies. PLoS One. 2014 Dec 4;9(12):e113637.