Determining How Populations Age Based On Handshakes

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online

How you shake hands can say a lot about you and a new study from researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna, Austria has found that a handshake can reveal how a population group is aging.

In a report published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, the Austrian researchers compared hand-grip strengths between two population groups: people who had completed secondary education and those who hadn’t. The researchers discovered that, based on hand-grip strength, participants with less education appeared to be older than their more educated counterparts.

“We found that based on this survey, a 65-year-old white women who had not completed secondary education has the same handgrip strength as a 69-year-old white women who had completed secondary education,” said study author Serguei Scherbov, a research director at IIASA. “This suggests that according to a handgrip strength characteristic their ages are equivalent and 65 year-old women ages 4 years faster due to lower education attainment.”

The study team assessed conclusions from over 50 published scientific studies that concentrate on people of all ages worldwide. Because the biomarker is already widely referenced, the information is readily available. The researchers discovered that the biomarker could be used to contrast different population groups.

“Hand-grip strength is easily measured and data on hand-grip strength now can be found in many of the most important surveys on aging worldwide,” said co-author Warren Sanderson, an IIASA researcher who is also a behavioral sciences professor at Stony Brook University in New York.

The two researchers said their long-term goal is to establish new biomarkers of aging founded on people’s attributes, such as their longevity, well-being, any disability and other crucial demographic aspects. Previously, the team has shown that gauging age just by the quantity of years people have lived does not effectively gauge the aging process. Using characteristic-based techniques, like a hand-grip measure, the scientists said they can detect inconsistencies in the aging process among population groups that may not have become apparent otherwise.

“Our goal is to measure how fast different groups in a society age. If some group is getting older faster than another, we can ask why that might be and see whether there are any policies that could help the faster aging group,” Scherbov said.

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