Long-term determinants of muscle strength decline: prospective evidence from the 22-year mini-Finland follow-up survey

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 Jan;60(1):77-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03779.x. Epub 2011 Dec 28.


Objectives: To examine long-term changes in handgrip strength and the factors predicting handgrip strength decline.

Design: Longitudinal cohort study with 22 years of follow-up.

Setting: Population-based Mini-Finland Health Examination Survey in Finland.

Participants: Nine hundred sixty-three men and women aged 30 to 73 at baseline.

Measurements: Handgrip strength was measured using a handheld dynamometer at baseline and follow-up. Information on potential risk factors, namely lifestyle and chronic conditions, and their changes throughout the follow-up were based on health interviews.

Results: Based on linear mixed-effect models, midlife physically strenuous work, excess body weight, smoking, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and asthma predicted muscle strength decline over 22 years of follow-up (P < .05 for all). In addition, pronounced weight loss, becoming physically sedentary, persistent smoking, incident coronary heart disease, other cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic bronchitis, chronic back syndrome, long-lasting cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and asthma were associated with accelerated handgrip strength decline (P < .05 for all).

Conclusion: Lifestyle and physical health earlier in life determine rate of muscle strength decline in old age. Efforts should be made to recognize persons at risk in a timely manner and target early interventions to middle-aged persons to slow down muscle strength decline and prevent future functional limitations and disability.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Health Surveys / methods*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle Strength Dynamometer
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sarcopenia / epidemiology*
  • Sarcopenia / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors