Handshake strength reveals education, age

May 7, 2014
Credit: Karen Arnold/public domain

A physical test for measuring age shows wide differences between the rates of aging among different population groups, according to new research by demographers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

A strong handshake can say a lot about a person—it can indicate power, confidence, health, or aggression. Now scientists say that the of a person's grasp may also be one of the most useful ways to measure people's true .

In a new study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, IIASA researchers Serguei Scherbov and Warren Sanderson (also at Stony Brook University) show that hand grip corresponds to other markers of aging such as people's future mortality, disability, cognitive decline, and ability to recover from hospital stays.

For their new research, Sanderson and Scherbov reviewed findings from over 50 published studies that focus on people of all ages around the world. Since the measure is already commonly used, data are readily available. "Hand-grip strength is easily measured and data on hand-grip strength now can be found in many of the most important surveys on aging worldwide," says Sanderson.

The study also demonstrates how such a test could be used as a measure for aging to compare different . The study used data from one such survey, the United States Health and Retirement Survey (HRS), to show how this could be done.

Scherbov says, "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. This suggests that according to a handgrip strength characteristic their ages are equivalent and 65 year-old women ages 4 years faster due to lower education attainment."

In a growing body of research funded in part by a new grant from the European Research Council (ERC), Scherbov and Sanderson 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.

Previous research by Sanderson and Scherbov 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, using a physical test like hand-grip, the researchers can identify differences in the aging process between population groups that may not otherwise become apparent.

Scherbov says, "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."

Explore further: Reconceptualizing the study of population aging

More information: Sanderson, W., and S. Scherbov. (2014) Measuring the Speed of Aging Across Population Subgroups. PLOS ONE. dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0096289

Related Stories

Reconceptualizing the study of population aging

December 12, 2013
Age is not just the number of years one has lived, argue IIASA population researchers. A new study from the group provides a set of tools for measuring age in all its dimensions.

Education boosts brain function long after school

March 11, 2014
European populations are growing older on average, a trend that could pose serious challenges to health care, budgets, and economic growth. As a greater proportion of a country's population grows into old age, average cognition ...

Can a simple handshake predict cancer survival rates?

February 26, 2014
New acquaintances are often judged by their handshake. Research has now recognized the simple squeeze as an important diagnostic tool in assessing strength and quality of life among critical care patients.

A lifetime of physical activity yields measurable benefits as we age

August 25, 2011
The benefits of physical activity accumulate across a lifetime, according to a new study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers in England and Australia examined the associations ...

Recommended for you

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nik_2213
not rated yet May 08, 2014
Never mind education etc, what about having to lean on a walking stick due arthritis, slip on ice, T-bone by ijit driver busy txting etc etc ??

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.