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Weak grip could be sign of underlying health issues, study finds

Story at a glance


  • The study builds on previous research linking grip strength to mortality, but the new research compares one’s grip to others in terms of sex, age, and body height instead of with the general healthy population.

  • Researchers measured a patient’s grip strength by squeezing a dynamometer – a tool used to measure force – twice with each hand.

  • They found that grip strength slightly less than average for the comparable population could indicate a greater mortality risk.

Hand grip strength could indicate underlying health issues and scientists now have a way to measure what it means for the general population.  

“In general, handgrip strength depends on gender, age, and the height of a person. Our task was to find the threshold related to handgrip strength that would signal a practitioner to do further examinations if a patient’s handgrip strength is below this threshold,” Sergei Scherbov, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, said in a news release. 

“It is similar to measuring blood pressure. When the level of blood pressure is outside of a particular range, the doctor can either decide to prescribe a particular medicine or to send the patient to a specialist for further examination,” Scherbov said. 

The study builds on previous research linking grip strength to mortality. But the new research compares one’s grip to others in terms of sex, age, and body height instead of with the general healthy population.  

Researchers measured a patient’s grip strength by having them squeeze a dynamometer – a tool used to measure force – twice with each hand. 

They found that a grip strength slightly less than average for the comparable population could indicate a greater mortality risk. Yet a stronger grip was not found to decrease risk. 

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“It is important to point out that we are not suggesting that people should train handgrip strength in particular to decrease mortality risks,” said Sonja Spitzer, a postdoctoral researcher at the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital and the University of Vienna. “Most likely, if someone improves their handgrip strength through exercises, there will be no or very little impact on their overall health.” 

“However, low handgrip strength may serve as an indicator of disability because it reflects a low muscle strength, which is associated with a higher risk of death,” Spitzer continued. “A healthy lifestyle and exercise are still the best approaches to sustain good health or to improve it in the long term,” Spitzer concludes. 

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Published on Jul. 25, 2022

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