Life Course Determinants of Muscle Weakness: The Role of Stress and Trauma

Kate Duchowny , University of California, San Francisco
Maggie Hicken, University of Michigan
Philippa Clarke, University of Michigan

Background: Muscle weakness, as measured by handgrip strength, is associated with disability and mortality; however, the extent to which muscle strength trajectories are shaped by social adversity experienced across the life course is unknown. Methods: Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (N= 20,472, Mean Age= 63.8 years), we employed gender-stratified growth curve models to investigate whether life course stress and trauma experienced at distinct life stages were associated with trajectories of grip strength in a nationally-representative sample of older adults. Results: We found that life course trauma and stress experienced during emerging/early adulthood (18-42 years) was associated with both mean grip strength at age 50 and trajectories of grip strength. Discussion: Results shed light on the importance of considering how one’s social environment shapes grip strength trajectories among older adults and may drive racial/ethnic disparities in muscle weakness in later life, particularly among Black Men and Women.

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 Presented in Session 5. Health & Mortality 1