Associations of grip strength with cardiovascular, respiratory, and cancer outcomes and all cause mortality: prospective cohort study of half a million UK Biobank participants

BMJ. 2018 May 8:361:k1651. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k1651.


Objective: To investigate the association of grip strength with disease specific incidence and mortality and whether grip strength enhances the prediction ability of an established office based risk score.

Design: Prospective population based study.

Setting: UK Biobank.

Participants: 502 293 participants (54% women) aged 40-69 years.

Main outcome measures: All cause mortality as well as incidence of and mortality from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancer (all cancer, colorectal, lung, breast, and prostate).

Results: Of the participants included in analyses, 13 322 (2.7%) died over a mean of 7.1 (range 5.3-9.9) years' follow-up. In women and men, respectively, hazard ratios per 5 kg lower grip strength were higher (all at P<0.05) for all cause mortality (1.20, 95% confidence interval 1.17 to 1.23, and 1.16, 1.15 to 1.17) and cause specific mortality from cardiovascular disease (1.19, 1.13 to 1.25, and 1.22, 1.18 to 1.26), all respiratory disease (1.31, 1.22 to 1.40, and 1.24, 1.20 to 1.28), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (1.24, 1.05 to 1.47, and 1.19, 1.09 to 1.30), all cancer (1.17, 1.13 to 1.21, 1.10, 1.07 to 1.13), colorectal cancer (1.17, 1.04 to 1.32, and 1.18, 1.09 to 1.27), lung cancer (1.17, 1.07 to 1.27, and 1.08, 1.03 to 1.13), and breast cancer (1.24, 1.10 to 1.39) but not prostate cancer (1.05, 0.96 to 1.15). Several of these relations had higher hazard ratios in the younger age group. Muscle weakness (defined as grip strength <26 kg for men and <16 kg for women) was associated with a higher hazard for all health outcomes, except colon cancer in women and prostate cancer and lung cancer in both men and women. The addition of handgrip strength improved the prediction ability, based on C index change, of an office based risk score (age, sex, diabetes diagnosed, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, and smoking) for all cause (0.013) and cardiovascular mortality (0.012) and incidence of cardiovascular disease (0.009).

Conclusion: Higher grip strength was associated with a range of health outcomes and improved prediction of an office based risk score. Further work on the use of grip strength in risk scores or risk screening is needed to establish its potential clinical utility.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / mortality
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / mortality*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology