Original Study| Volume 23, ISSUE 3, P493-498.e1, March 2022

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Sex Differences in the Associations of Handgrip Strength and Asymmetry With Multimorbidity: Evidence From the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

Published:August 10, 2021DOI:



      To determine the sex-specific associations of handgrip strength (HGS) and asymmetry with incident multimorbidity and examine whether these relationships differ by sex.


      Prospective cohort study.

      Setting and Participants

      Secondary analyses of data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA, waves 2-8). The analytic sample included 3977 participants (51.4% female) aged ≥50 years who had data for HGS on both hands and were living without multimorbidity at baseline.


      HGS was assessed with a handheld dynamometer. Individuals in the lowest tertile of sex-specific age-adjusted HGS were defined as having low HGS. The largest HGS readings from the nondominant and dominant hand were used to calculate HGS ratio [nondominant HGS (kg)/dominant HGS (kg)]. Those with HGS ratio <0.90 or >1.10 had any HGS asymmetry. Further, those with HGS ratio <0.90 had dominant HGS asymmetry, whereas those with HGS ratio >1.10 had nondominant HGS asymmetry. Multimorbidity was defined as the coexistence of ≥2 chronic diseases. Cox proportional hazards regression models were conducted for analyses.


      Low HGS was associated with multimorbidity among older men [hazard ratio (HR) 1.20, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03-1.40] and women (HR 1.19, 95% CI 1.03-1.38). No significant effect modification by sex was observed (P-interaction = .71). HGS asymmetry increased the risk of multimorbidity in women only (HR 1.23, 95% CI 1.07-1.41). The relationship between HGS asymmetry and multimorbidity risk differed by sex (P-interaction = .01). Similarly, both dominant HGS asymmetry (HR 1.21, 95% CI 1.05-1.40) and nondominant HGS asymmetry (HR 1.32, 95% CI 1.03-1.68) were related to incident multimorbidity in women only. There was a significant interaction between dominant HGS asymmetry and sex (P-interaction = .02).

      Conclusions and Implications

      Examining HGS asymmetry in HGS test protocols can provide novel insights for the predictive power of HGS in the accumulation of diseases, particularly in women.


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