Get a grip: What your hand strength says about your marriage prospects and mortality

April 26, 2018, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Columbia Aging Center found men with a stronger grip were more likely to be married than men with weaker grips. Grip strength was not a factor in the marital status of women. The findings are published online in the journal SSM-Population Health.

Grip strength is an established measure of health and has previously been linked to one's ability to cope independently and predicts the risk of cardiovascular diseases and mortality.

"Our results hint that may be favoring partners who signal strength and vigor when they marry," said Vegard Skirbekk, PhD, professor, Columbia Aging Center and Mailman School professor of Population and Family Health. "If longer-lived women marry healthier men, then both may avoid or defer the role of caregiver, while less healthy men remain unmarried and must look elsewhere for assistance."

Using a population-based study of 5,009 adults from the Norwegian city of Tromsø, the researchers examined the relationship of to strength in two successive groups of people: those born 1923-35 and 1936-48, assessing the association between respondents' marital status and grip strength when respondents were aged 59 to 71. These data were matched with the Norwegian national death registry. Handgrip strength was assessed using a vigorimeter, a device that asks participants to squeeze a rubber balloon.

Grip strength is particularly important for older adults, and has implications for a host of health risks—for heart disease and factures, physical mobility, the capacity to be socially active and healthy, and to enjoy a good quality of life. At the same time, marriage confers many of these same benefits.

The researchers found greater numbers of unmarried men with low grip strength in the second cohort—those born 1936-48—than in the first cohort, reflecting societal trends that have increasingly deemphasized the importance of marriage. "In recent decades, women are less dependent on men economically. At the same time, men have a growing 'health dependence' on women," says Skirbekk. "The fact that many men are alone with a weak grip—a double burden for these men who lack both strength and a lack of support that comes from being married—suggests that more attention needs to be given to this group, particularly given their relatively poor ."

Policies to help this population might include housing arrangements that encourage social interaction and counselling to better prepare these individuals for old age and information on how to avoid of independent living. "New technologies may potentially offset some of the limitations that low may imply," says Skirbekk. "Social policies could also increasingly target this group by providing financial support for those who suffer the double-burden of low and lack of spousal support."

Explore further: Poorer health influences muscle strength in later life

More information: Vegard Skirbekk et al, Women's Spousal Choices and a Man's Handshake: Evidence from a Norwegian Study of Cohort Differences, SSM - Population Health (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2018.04.004

Related Stories

Poorer health influences muscle strength in later life

November 16, 2017
Older people with poorer health are more likely to have weaker muscles and experience a decline in muscle strength more quickly than their healthier peers, according to a new study carried out at the University of Southampton.

Higher inflammation in old age is linked to weaker strength and lower muscle mass

January 22, 2018
Older people with higher levels of chronic inflammation are likely to have weaker muscles and lower muscle mass, according to a new study carried out at the University of Southampton.

Testing hand-grip strength could be a simple, low-cost way to predict heart attack and stroke risk

May 13, 2015
Weak grip strength is linked with shorter survival and a greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke, according to an international study involving almost 140000 adults from 17 culturally and economically diverse countries.

Physical activity helps fight genetic risk of heart disease, study finds

April 9, 2018
Keeping fit, even if you're born with a high genetic risk for heart disease, still works to keep your heart healthy, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Weak grip a strong predictor of metabolic disease and disability in adults

April 5, 2017
A simple test to determine a person's grip strength may be a predictor of developing metabolic disorders in middle or older age, a new cross-continental study has found.

Physical activity offers greater health benefits to those with naturally low fitness levels

July 7, 2016
The benefits of being physically active are far greater for those who are naturally unfit, according to scientists at The University of Glasgow.

Recommended for you

How cannabis and cannabis-based drugs harm your brain

July 23, 2018
Long-term use of either cannabis or cannabis-based drugs impairs memory say researchers. The study has implications for both recreational users and people who use the drug to combat epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and chronic ...

Exercise cuts risk of chronic disease in older adults

July 23, 2018
New research has shown that older adults who exercise above current recommended levels have a reduced risk of developing chronic disease compared with those who do not exercise.

Toxic chemical cocktails: scientists want safety overhaul

July 23, 2018
People and wildlife risk more harm from chemical mixtures than from separate exposure to the same chemicals, mounting scientific evidence shows.

Systematic literature analysis on the effect of genetic factors on nutrition

July 23, 2018
Individualized dietary recommendations based on genetic information are a popular trend. But a team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has systematically analyzed scientific articles and determined that there is ...

Researchers find that private insurance pays more for emergency department visits

July 23, 2018
Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that, over the past 20 years, private insurers have paid more for a visit to the emergency department than Medicare or Medicaid. For this work, titled "Per-visit Emergency ...

Secondhand smoke causing thousands of still births in developing countries

July 20, 2018
The study reveals that more than 40% of all pregnant women in Pakistan are exposed to secondhand smoke—causing approximately 17,000 still births in a year.

0 comments

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.