Depression and Handgrip Strength Among U.S. Adults Aged 60 Years and Older from NHANES 2011-2014

J Nutr Health Aging. 2018;22(8):938-943. doi: 10.1007/s12603-018-1041-5.


Objectives: Sarcopenia is a gradual loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging. This muscle deterioration is linked to increased morbidity, disability, and other adverse outcomes. Although reduced handgrip strength can be considered a marker of sarcopenia and other aging-related decline in the elderly, there is limited research on this physical health problem in at-risk groups with common biopsychosocial conditions such as depression. Our primary objective was to ascertain level of combined handgrip strength and its relationship with depression among adults aged 60 years and older.

Design: Unadjusted and adjusted linear regression models were conducted with a cross-sectional survey dataset.

Setting: Secondary dataset from the 2011-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Participants: Community-dwelling, non-institutionalized adults ≥60 years old (n=3,421).

Measurements: The predictor variables included a positive screen for clinically relevant depression (referent=PHQ-9 score <10). The criterion variable of combined handgrip strength (kg) was determined using a dynamometer.

Results: Mean age and BMI were 69.9 years (51.5% female) and 28.8 kg/m2, respectively. Mean combined handgrip strength in the overall cohort was 73.5 and 46.6 kg in males and females, respectively. Three hundred thirty-six (9.8%) reported symptoms of depression. In unadjusted and fully adjusted models, depression was significantly associated with reduced handgrip strength (B = -0.26±0.79 and B = -0.19±0.08, respectively; p<0.001).

Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate handgrip strength has a significant inverse association with depression. Future longitudinal studies should investigate the causal processes and potential moderators and mediators of the relationships between depression and reduced handgrip strength. This information may further encourage the use of depression and handgrip strength assessments and aid in the monitoring and implementation of health care services that address both physical and mental health limitations among older adult populations.

Keywords: Handgrip strength; depression; epidemiology; sarcopenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Disabled Persons
  • Female
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Nutrition Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sarcopenia / physiopathology*