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

Publication type

Conference Paper


Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2015, 21-23 July 2015, University of Essex, Colchester, UK


Publication date

July 22, 2015


Grip strength in early adulthood and midlife is an important predictor
of disability, morbidity and mortality in later life; understanding its
social determinants could improve insight into health inequalities and
decline in old age. Using Understanding Society data on 14644 people
aged 16 to 98; this research employs fractional polynomials to explore
the growth and decline of grip strength over the life course,
establishing its peak for men and women and whether this varies on the
basis of socio-economic position (SEP). Maternal education, income and
highest educational qualification are used to measure SEP. Interaction
terms for each SEP indicator are used to identify if the slopes for high
and low SEP are significantly different. We find that grip strength
peaks earlier for those with low SEP and at a lower level of strength.
For example, grip strength peaks at 45.4kg and at age 35 for low income
men, while this occurs at 47.5kg when aged 36 for men with medium and
high income. The differences in grip strength between high and low SEP
are more pronounced for adult SEP rather than childhood; for men this is
greatest on the basis of income and for women, the greatest difference
is between those with high and low education. Our findings imply that
grip strength decline begins at a younger age for low SEP groups and
from a lower level, so that they reach problematic levels earlier in
life than those who are more affluent.



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