Zammit et al., 2018. Associations between aging-related changes in grip strength and cognitive function in older adults: A systematic review.


Objectives. Grip strength and cognitive function reflect upper body muscle strength and mental capacities. Cross-sectional research has suggested that in old age these two processes are moderately to highly associated, and that an underlying common cause drives this association. Our aim was to synthesize and evaluate longitudinal research addressing whether changes in grip strength are associated with changes in cognitive function in healthy older adults.

Methods. We systematically reviewed English-language research investigating the longitudinal association between repeated measures of grip strength and of cognitive function in community-dwelling older adults to evaluate the extent to which the two indices decline concurrently. We used four search engines: Embase, PsychINFO, PubMed, and Web of Science.

Results. Of 459 unique citations, 6 met our full criteria: 4 studies reported a longitudinal association between rates of change in grip strength and cognitive function in older adults, 2 of which reported the magnitudes of these associations as ranging from low to moderate; 2 studies reported significant cross-sectional but not longitudinal associations among rates of change. All studies concluded that cognitive function and grip strength declined, on average, with increasing age, although with little to no evidence for longitudinal associations among rates of change.

Conclusions. Future research is urged to expand the study of physical and cognitive associations in old age using a within-person and multi-study integrative approach to evaluate the reliability of longitudinal results with greater emphasis on the magnitude of this association