Prevalence of Reduced Muscle Strength in Older U.S. Adults: United States, 2011–2012

January 28, 2015

Muscle weakness is linked to impaired mobility and mortality in older persons. The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) Sarcopenia Project recently developed sex-specific criteria to diagnose different degrees of muscle strength (i.e., weak, intermediate, and normal) in older adults based on maximum hand grip strength. These thresholds are related to the level of muscle weakness that is associated with slow gait speed, an important mobility impairment.

A new NCHS report uses the FNIH criteria to provide national estimates of muscle strength in older adults in the United States in 2011–2012.

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Key Findings from the Report:

  • Five percent of adults aged 60 and over had weak muscle strength. Thirteen percent had intermediate muscle strength, while 82% had normal muscle strength.
  • The prevalence of reduced (weak and intermediate) muscle strength increased with age, while the prevalence of normal strength decreased with age.
  • Muscle strength status did not differ by sex, except among persons aged 80 and over, where women had a higher prevalence of weak muscle strength than men.
  • Non-Hispanic Asian and Hispanic persons had a higher prevalence of reduced muscle strength than non-Hispanic white persons.
  • Difficulty with rising from a chair increased as strength status decreased.