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Are millennials losing their grip?

Friday 1st July 2016

A study has found millennials are losing their grip, with diminished hand strength dooming us to be a generation of weak handshakes and flimsy fingers

Get a grip, young people.


The under-30s. If you have the sense everything's slipping through their fingers, here's something else to blame it on, aside from the impossible property market and growing job insecurity. 

Research comparing the hand-grip strength of under 30s today with their 1985 counterparts has found that today’s generation scored significantly lower across the board.

It seems texting and typing aren’t as hard on the hands as tilling the fields.

The authors of the study, published by the Journal of Hand Therapy, concluded that the likely explanation was fewer millennials involved in factory work and manual labour. It seems texting and typing aren’t as hard on the hands as tilling the fields (perhaps few surprises there).

Elizabeth Fain, of Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, led the study with occupational therapist Cara Weatherford. Speaking to NPR, Fain said, "Work patterns have changed dramatically since 1985, when the first norms were established. As a society, we're no longer agricultural or manufacturing ... What we're doing more now is technology-related, especially for millennials."

The 2016 study took measurements from a sample of 237 healthy millennials aged 20-34 years old, and compared them to results used to establish occupational therapy ‘norms’ from 1985.

The researchers found strength scores were statistically lower than the older normative data, in those under 30. This statistically significant trend was most marked in all male grip strengths, and in women aged 20-24 years (bilateral grip) and 25-29 years (right grip).

A summary of findings found men aged 20-24 once had a more-impressive average right-handed grip of 121 pounds and a left-handed grip of 105 pounds. Today, according to the reserach, men that age can grip only 101 and 99 pounds.

Women aged 20-24 showed smaller losses, with right-handed grips today of 60 pounds, down from 70.

So, are we all becoming floppy, limp-gripped handshakers? Probably. But the real implications of the study are for health and rehabilitation from hand injuries. The current standardised level of hand strength was developed in 1985, following tests on our stronger-limbed predecessors. They haven’t been updated since.

Given average strength seems to have decreased significantly since then, the study calls for hand strength measures to be revised, so occupational therapists can more accurately measure rehabilitation from injuries.

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