If you’ve ever cradled your hand in pain after shaking hands with an older man, this research may explain why.
Among the “articles in press” by the Journal of Hand Therapy, whose audience is therapists treating “disabling hand problems,” is an examination of hand strength among 20-to-34 year-olds studied in 1985 and 2015.
Research from Winston-Salem State University found that today’s young males have far less “grip strength” than males the same age 30 years ago, as summarized by The Washington Post – but the differences among younger millennials are even more striking:
The average 20-to-34-year-old today, for instance, was able to apply 98 pounds of force when gripping something with his right hand. In 1985, the average man could squeeze with 117 pounds of force. …
[T]he differences over time were least pronounced among older millennials (ages 30 to 34), who squeezed with 11 fewer pounds of pressure than men in that age group squeezed in 1985. The biggest deficit was seen among men ages 25 to 29, who could only grip with 25 pounds fewer force than their forebears.
The more recent population was taken from North Carolina institutions of higher education, while the earlier study recruited young men from “an area around Milwaukee,” many of whom came from “a university setting,” so the comparison isn’t exact.
Millennial women, in contrast, don’t overall show much difference from their forebears in grip strength, except for older millennials, who are practically Amazon warriors:
Their average right-hand grip force is roughly the same today as it was 30 years ago, at about 75 pounds. Millennial women between 30 to 34 actually squeezed much harder than their forebears did, coming in at 98 pounds of force compared to 79 pounds in 1985. But this was offset by decreases in strength among younger millennial women.
To look at it another way: In 1985, the typical 30-to-34-year-old man could squeeze your hand with 31 pounds more force than the typical woman of that age could. But today, older millennial men and women are roughly equal when it comes to grip strength.
This has ramifications for the healthcare needs of today’s young people as they age, particularly men, because grip strength is “a strong predictor of mortality in later life,” the Post says.