The prevalence of chronic diseases has risen along with increased longevity. Co-occurrence of two or more chronic diseases in an individual (multimorbidity) is prevalent and poses a huge burden to individuals and the society. However, determinants of multimorbidity are largely unknown. Handgrip strength is a general indicator of muscle strength and linked with premature mortality. However, its role in multimorbidity has never been evaluated. To investigate the relationships between handgrip strength and multiple chronic diseases and multimorbidity, and to assess the usefulness of age and handgrip as a marker of chronic diseases and multimorbidity in a community dwelling sample of men and women, we analyzed a cross-sectional cohort with 1,145 subjects (748 men and 397 women) aged 50 years and older living in Hong Kong. Low handgrip strength was significantly associated with increased odds of having five and three chronic diseases in men and women, respectively, after controlling for age, body mass index, history of smoking, educational level, marital level and comorbidity. Multivariable-adjusted handgrip strength was significantly decreased with the number of chronic diseases in men (trend, P = 0.001), but the trend in women was marginal (trend, P = 0.06). Conversely, multivariable- adjusted age was significantly increased with the number of chronic diseases in women (trend, P = 0.033), but not in men (trend, P = 0.118). In conclusion, handgrip strength is associated with multiple chronic diseases and multimorbidity in men and women after adjustment of confounding factors. It shows a linear trend of association with the number of chronic diseases in men, but not in women. Since handgrip strength is a biomarker of multiple physiological systems, its augmentation may be a feasible strategy to improve general health and decrease likelihood of having multiple chronic diseases and hence, premature mortality.
- Chronic disease
- Handgrip strength