Decreased Handgrip Strength is Associated With Impairments in Each Autonomous Living Task for Aging Adults in the United States

Ryan McGrath, K. M. Erlandson, B. M. Vincent, K. J. Hackney, S. D. Herrmann, B. C. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objectives: The primary purpose of this study was to determine the time-varying associations between decreased handgrip strength (HGS) and individual instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) impairments for a nationally-representative sample of aging adults in the United States. Design: Longitudinal-Panel. Setting: Detailed interviews were completed in person and core interviews were typically completed over the telephone. Participants: A total of 15,336 participants aged at least 50 years who participated in the 2006 wave of the Health and Retirement Study were followed biennially for 8-years. Measurements: A hand-held dynamometer assessed HGS and performance in IADLs were self-reported. Results: Every 5-kilogram decrease in HGS was associated with an increased odds ratio for the following IADL impairments: 1.11 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.09, 1.13) for using a map, 1.10 (CI: 1.07, 1.12) for grocery shopping, 1.09 (CI: 1.05, 1.14) for taking medications, 1.07 (CI: 1.05, 1.09) for preparing hot meals, 1.06 (CI: 1.04, 1.08) for managing money, and 1.05 (CI: 1.02, 1.09) for using a telephone. Conclusions: Decreased HGS was associated with each IADL impairment, and slightly different associations were observed in individual IADL tasks for aging adults in the United States. Our findings suggest that decreased HGS, which is reflective of reduced function of the neuromuscular system, is associated with diminished performance in autonomous living tasks during aging. Losses in HGS may lead to the development of an IADL impairment. Therefore, health-care providers working with aging adults should utilize measures of HGS as a screening tool for identifying future deficits in neuromuscular functioning. Interventions designed to preserve IADLs in aging adults should also include measures of HGS for detecting early changes in IADL capacity, and intervening at the onset of HGS declines may help aging adults retain their ability to live autonomously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-145
Number of pages5
JournalThe Journal of frailty & aging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Cognition
  • geriatrics
  • motor skills
  • muscle strength
  • muscle weakness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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