Handgrip Strength and Remaining Years of Life: Defining a Threshold Below Which a Weak Grip Starts to Substantially Increase Mortality Risks
Sergei Scherbov, Nadia Steiber
Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU), International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, Austria

Abstract

Hand grip strength (HGS) has been identified as a strong predictor of future morbidity and mortality – in Europe, North and South America, and Asia – and has therefore been proposed as a biomarker or healthy aging. To date, knowledge about relevant threshold values for defining critically low levels of HGS – that are associated with higher morbidity/mortality – is extremely scarce. Based on data from the German Socio-Economic Panel, we attempt to identify meaningful cut-off points to be used in health screenings. We carry out survival analyses using baseline HGS measured in 2006 (adjusted for age, sex, and body height) of individuals aged 50+ as a predictor of death within a 9-year follow up period. Our findings show that HGS is a very strong predictor of future mortality. Moreover, modeling the non-linear association of baseline HGS with the risk of dying, we estimate a risk threshold at which the hazard of dying significantly and substantially increases: it is estimated to lie at about one SD below the age-standardized mean HGS in the population. We illustrate our findings in terms of the difference in remaining life expectancies (in years) between those with weak versus average or strong handgrip.