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Journal Article

Social patterning in grip strength and in its association with age; a cross sectional analysis using the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS)


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Background: Grip strength in early adulthood and midlife is an important predictor of disability, morbidity and mortality in later life. Understanding social patterning in grip strength at different life stages could improve insight into inequalities in age-related decline and when in the life course interventions could prevent the emergence of inequalities. Methods: Using United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) data on 19,292 people aged 16 to 99, fractional polynomial models were fitted to identify which function of age best described its association with grip strength. Linear regressions were used to establish whether socio-economic position (SEP), as measured by maternal education, highest educational qualification and income, was associated with grip strength. To test whether the association between age and grip strength was modified by SEP, interactions between SEP and the age terms were added. Differentiation was used to identify the age at which grip strength was highest for men and women and predicted levels of grip strength at peak were compared. Results: SEP is significantly associated with grip strength on all SEP measures, except education for men. Grip strength is highest at a younger age, and less strong for allmeasures of disadvantage for women and most measures formen. Interaction terms were not statistically significant indicating that the association between age and grip strength was not modified by SEP. Grip strength peak was 29.3 kg at age 33 for women with disadvantaged childhood SEP compared with 30.2 kg at age 35 for women with advantaged childhood SEP. Conclusion: The SEP differences in age and level of peak grip strength could be indicative of decline in muscle strength beginning earlier and from a lower base for disadvantaged groups. This could impact on the capacity for healthy ageing for those with disadvantaged SEP.

Published in

BMC Public Health







Medicine, Health, Life Course Analysis, Social Stratification, and Biology



Open Access; © The Author(s). 2018; This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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  1. Social patterning in grip strength across the life course: a cross sectional analysis using Understanding Society

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