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Cross-national differences in grip strength among 50+ year-old Europeans: results from the SHARE study

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Abstract

Grip strength (GS) has an age- and gender-dependent decline with advancing age. One study comparing GS among extremely old show a North–South gradient with lowest GS in Italy compared to France (intermediary) and Denmark (highest) even after adjusting for confounders. As GS is associated with higher rates of functional decline and mortality, and thus may be used as a health indicator, it is of interest to examine whether the results on extremely old can be reproduced in a large-scale European survey. GS was measured in a cross-sectional population-based sample of 27,456 individuals aged 50+ in 11 European countries included in the SHARE survey. We made a cross-country comparison of the age trajectory of GS in both genders. Northern-continental European countries had higher GS than southern European countries even when stratifying by age and gender and controlling for height, weight, education, health and socioeconomic status. The relative excess was found to be 11% and the absolute difference 5.0 kg for 50- to 54-year-old men, increasing to 28% and 6.9 kg among 80+ year-old men. The corresponding figures for women were 16% and 4.3 kg, and 21% and 3.5 kg, respectively. Southern European countries have lower GS in the age range 50+ year. Gene–environment interactions may explain country-specific differences. The use of GS in cross-national surveys should control not only for age and gender, but also for nationality.

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Acknowledgments

This paper uses data from Release 2 beta SHARE 2004. The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th framework programme (project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life). Additional funding came from the US National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, Y1-AG-4553-01 and OGHA 04-064). Data collection in Austria (through the Austrian Science Foundation, FWF), Belgium (through the Belgian Science Policy Office) and Switzerland (through BBW/OFES/UFES) were nationally funded.

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Correspondence to Karen Andersen-Ranberg.

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Andersen-Ranberg, K., Petersen, I., Frederiksen, H. et al. Cross-national differences in grip strength among 50+ year-old Europeans: results from the SHARE study. Eur J Ageing 6, 227–236 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-009-0128-6

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