Age and grip strength predict hand dexterity in adults

PLoS One. 2015 Feb 17;10(2):e0117598. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117598. eCollection 2015.


In the scientific literature, there is much evidence of a relationship between age and dexterity, where increased age is related to slower, less nimble and less smooth, less coordinated and less controlled performances. While some suggest that the relationship is a direct consequence of reduced muscle strength associated to increased age, there is a lack of research that has systematically investigated the relationships between age, strength and hand dexterity. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine the associations between age, grip strength and dexterity. 107 adults (range 18-93 years) completed a series of hand dexterity tasks (i.e. steadiness, line tracking, aiming, and tapping) and a test of maximal grip strength. We performed three phases of analyses. Firstly, we evaluated the simple relationships between pairs of variables; replicating the existing literature; and found significant relationships of increased age and reduced strength; increased age and reduced dexterity, and; reduced strength and reduced dexterity. Secondly, we used standard Multiple Regression (MR) models to determine which of the age and strength factors accounted for the greater variance in dexterity. The results showed that both age and strength made significant contributions to the data variance, but that age explained more of the variance in steadiness and line tracking dexterity, whereas strength explained more of the variance in aiming and tapping dexterity. In a third phase of analysis, we used MR analyses to show an interaction between age and strength on steadiness hand dexterity. Simple Slopes post-hoc analyses showed that the interaction was explained by the middle to older aged adults showing a relationship between reduced strength and reduced hand steadiness, whereas younger aged adults showed no relationship between strength and steadiness hand dexterity. The results are discussed in terms of how age and grip strength predict different types of hand dexterity in adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Muscle Weakness / physiopathology
  • Young Adult

Grant support

Funding for the individuals involved in the current study was received from the University of Birmingham and the University of Worcester. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.