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PLoS One. 2016 May 27;11(5):e0155954. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155954. eCollection 2016.

The Association of Levels of and Decline in Grip Strength in Old Age with Trajectories of Life Course Occupational Position.

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European University Institute, Florence, Italy.
Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institutet & Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.



The study of the influence of life course occupational position (OP) on health in old age demands analysis of time patterns in both OP and health. We study associations between life course time patterns of OP and decline in grip strength in old age.


We analyze 5 waves from the Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe (n = 5108, ages 65-90). We use a pattern-mixture latent growth model to predict the level and decline in grip strength in old age by trajectory of life course OP. We extend and generalize the structured regression approach to establish the explanatory power of different life course models for both the level and decline of grip strength.


Grip strength declined linearly by 0.70 kg (95% CI -0.74;-0.66) for men and 0.42 kg (95% CI -0.45;-0.39) for women per year. The level of men's grip strength can best be explained by a critical period during midlife, with those exposed to low OP during this period having 1.67 kg (95% CI -2.33;-1.00) less grip strength. These differences remain constant over age. For women, no association between OP and levels of or decline in grip strength was found.


Men's OP in midlife seems to be a critical period for the level of grip strength in old age. Inequalities remain constant over age. The integration of the structured regression approach and latent growth modelling offers new possibilities for life course epidemiology.

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