A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that handgrip corresponds to markers of aging such as people’s future mortality, disability, cognitive decline, and the ability to recover from hospital stays.
The researchers reviewed findings from more than 50 published studies that focus on people around the world and of all ages. Since the measure is already commonly used, data is readily available.
“Handgrip strength is easily measured and data on handgrip strength now can be found in many of the most important surveys on aging worldwide,” says Warren Sanderson, professor of economics and history at Stony Brook University.
The study also demonstrates how such a test could be used as a measure for aging to compare different population groups. The study used data from one such survey, the United States Health and Retirement Survey (HRS), to show how this could be done.
“We found that based on this survey, a 65-year-old white women who had not completed secondary education has the same handgrip strength as a 69-year-old white women who had completed secondary education,” says Serguei Scherbov from the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
This suggests that the 65-year-old woman aged 4 years faster due to lower education attainment, Scherbov says.
Sanderson and Scherbov have begun to define new measures of aging based on people’s characteristics, such as their longevity, health, disability status, and other important demographic factors.
Their previous research has shown that measuring age simply by the number of years people have lived does not measure variations in the aging process correctly.
Using new characteristic-based approaches such as the one in this paper, the researchers can identify differences in the aging process between population groups that may not otherwise become apparent.
“Our goal is to measure how fast different groups in a society age. If some group is getting older faster than another, we can ask why that might be and see whether there are any policies that could help the faster aging group,” says Scherbov.
The European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme/European Research Council grant supported the study.