Getting a Grip on Secular Changes: Age-Period-Cohort Modeling of Grip Strength in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

Patrick O'Keefe, Frank D. Mann, Sean Clouston, Stacey Voll, Graciela Muniz-Terrera, Nathan Lewis, Linda Wanström, Scott M. Hofer, Joseph L. Rodgers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Grip strength is a popular and valuable measure in studies of physical functional capabilities in old age. The influence of historical trends and differential period-specific exposures can complicate the interpretation of biomarkers of aging and health and requires careful analysis and interpretation of aging, birth cohort, and period effects. This study evaluates the effects of aging, period, and cohort on grip strength in a population of adults and older adults. Methods: We use more than 27 000 observations for individuals at least 50 years of age, born in approximately 1910-1960, from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to examine a variety of multilevel and cross-classified modeling approaches to evaluate age, period, and cohort effects. Our results extended Hierarchical Age-Period-Cohort modeling and compared our results with a set of 9 submodels with explicit assumptions to determine the most reliable modeling approach. Results: Findings suggest grip strength is primarily related to age, with minimal evidence of either period and/or cohort effects. Each year's increase in a person's age was associated with a 0.40-kg decrease in grip strength, though this decline differs by gender. Conclusions: We conclude that as the population ages, grip strength declines at a systematic and predictable rate equal to -0.40 kg per year (approximately -0.50 kg for men and -0.30 kg for women) in residents of England aged 50 and older. Age effects were predominant and most consistent across methodologies. While there was some evidence for cohort effects, such effects were minimal and therefore indicative that grip strength is a consistent physiological biomarker of aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1413-1420
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • Age-period-cohort modeling
  • Grip strength
  • Secular change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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