Sooraj Shah ’24
Depression is a mental state in which individuals often feel disinterested in everyday activities, preventing them from taking advantage of life’s opportunities. Interestingly, depression seems to take a physical form as well, with muscle strength and functionality being a main area of concern. Unfortunately, muscle failures often go untreated because the majority of people with depression tend to reject treatment. In a study led by Dr. Adilson Marquez, a professor of Human Kinetics at the University of Lisbon in Portugal, hand grip strength (gs) was measured across selected populations of middle-older adults to reveal a value that would be indicative of depression.
The population sample of 20,598 individuals (10,182 men and 10,416 women) was picked according to a European Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement (SHARE). This survey contained information about individuals fifty or older regarding symptoms of depression from 14 different European countries. Researchers conducted ninety minute interviews with each participant, part of which included physical measurements. Symptoms of depression were recorded on a EURO-D scale measured from 0-12, where a score higher than 4 warrants diagnosis of clinical depression. To measure grip strength, participants squeezed a dynamometer as tightly as possible for five seconds. Diseases and other health conditions were noted as well.
The results showed that more women (29.6%) than men (16.5%) had depression according to the EURO-D scale. The average grip strength values for men and women were 44.6 kg and 27.9 kg, respectively. The gs cut off-values for each demographic were 43.5 kg for men aged 50-64, 39.5 kg for men older than 64, 29.5 kg for women aged 50-64, and 22.5 kg for women older than 64. Participants above these gs cut-off values are associated with having a lower chance of depression. The results showed that although gs can predict depression in individuals, it should not be used as a preliminary rather than primary test for depression. This is due to the weak discriminant capacity (ability for the model to predict individuals with/without depression) reflected in the cutoff gs values. As grip strength is used in other research to detect various types of conditions, some specific adjustments should be made to this research in the future such as noting the daily use of gs in activities, possible focus on just one sex, and expanding the age group observed.
Physical traits of individuals with depression is an important area of the condition which requires further examination. Grip strength is one trait that is indicative of depression, but it is a broad measurement that can be interpreted in various ways. Future research should focus on physical exercise, possible acne breakouts on the facial surface, or weight gains and losses in order to more accurately predict depression.
 A. Marques, et al., Exploring grip strength as a predictor of depression in middle-aged and older adults. Scientific Reports 11, 15946 (2021). doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-95566-7.
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