Purpose: Weaker grip strength in older adults is associated with adverse health outcomes and is a key component of sarcopenia. The secular trend of grip strength is, therefore, relevant in the setting of ageing populations. A recent study suggested differences in this trend among countries in mainland Europe. We used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) to investigate the recent secular trend of older English adults.
Methods: We used data on participants aged 50–89 having their first measurement of grip strength in waves 2 (2002/2003), 4 (2008/2009) or 6 (2012/2013) of ELSA. Grip was measured using a Smedley dynamometer. We expressed grip values as Z-scores (number of standard deviations above the age and gender mean from normative data) for use in linear regression analyses examining the annual secular trend after adjustment for potential confounders.
Results: We included a total of 11,476 participants from the three waves of ELSA. Grip strength declined across the three waves, with mean (SD) Z-scores of 0.01 (0.94), − 0.06 (0.97) and − 0.20 (0.98) in waves 2, 4 and 6, respectively. The annual Z-score decline after adjustments was 0.03 SDs (95% CI 0.02, 0.03) per year.
Conclusion: We saw evidence of a recent slight decline in the grip strength of older English adults. Over the 9-year period of this study, the decline seen is equivalent to 65-year-olds’ mean strength declining to that previously seen in individuals at age 69. Further monitoring of secular trends in grip strength and investigation of possible causes are warranted.