Handgrip strength among nonagenarians and centenarians in three European regions

Jeune, B., Skytthe, A., Cournil, A., Greco, V., Gampe, J., Berardelli, M., Andersen-Ranberg, K., Passarino, G., De Benedictis, G., Robine, J.-M.

Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 61A:7, 707-712 (2006)


Background. Handgrip strength is an important predictor of disability and mortality among old people. The aim was to compare the grip strength among very old people in three regions of Europe. Methods. In this substudy of the European Challenge for Healthy Aging project, only the long-lived probands were included. The maximum value of three measurements of handgrip strength was selected for the analysis. Adjustment for factors known to be correlated with grip strength was made by linear regression. Results. Among 598 very old people (median age = 98 years) a clear North–South gradient was observed: For men, handgrip strength dropped from 24.2 kg in Southern Denmark to 20.8 kg in Languedoc-Roussillon, France and 14.2 kg in Calabria, Italy (p <.0001), whereas for women the drop was smaller (from 12.2 to 9.2 kg; p =.0021). The difference remains significant after adjustment for age, gender, housing, knee height, Activities of Daily Living (ADL) scale score, score on the Six-Item Mini-Mental State Examination, chair stand, and number of age-related diseases, although these factors explain two thirds of the variation in handgrip strength. Conclusions. Among nonagenarians and centenarians in three different European regions, we found a significant North–South gradient in handgrip strength with substantially lower values in Calabria. This finding may be due both to population background differences (e.g., genetic variations, birth weight, childhood growth) and to sociocultural differences (e.g., lifestyle, health care).