NEW YORK: Men with a stronger hand grip are more likely to be married than those with weaker grip, according to a study which suggests that women favour partners who signal strength and vigour.
Grip strength is an established measure of health and has previously been linked to one's ability to cope independently and predicts the risk of cardiovascular diseases and mortality, said researchers at Columbia University in the US.
"Our results hint that women may be favouring partners who signal strength and vigour when they marry," said Vegard Skirbekk, a professor at Columbia Aging Center.
"If longer-lived women marry healthier men, then both may avoid or defer the role of care-giver, while less healthy men remain unmarried and must look elsewhere for assistance," said Skirbekk, a researchers in the study published in the journal SSM-Population Health.
Using a population-based study of 5,009 adults from the Norwegian city of Tromsø, the researchers examined the relationship of marital status to grip strength in two successive groups of people - those born from 1923-35 and 1936-48.
They assessed the association between respondents' marital status and grip strength when respondents were aged 59 to 71.
These data were matched with the Norwegian national death registry.
Handgrip strength was assessed using a vigorimeter, a device that asks participants to squeeze a rubber balloon.
Grip strength is particularly important for older adults, and has implications for a host of health risks - for heart disease and fractures, physical mobility, the capacity to be socially active and healthy, and to enjoy a good quality of life.
At the same time, marriage confers many of these same benefits, researchers said.
They found greater numbers of unmarried men with low grip strength in the second cohort - those born from 1936-48 - than in the first cohort, reflecting societal trends that have increasingly deemphasised the importance of marriage.
"In recent decades, women are less dependent on men economically.
At the same time, men have a growing 'health dependence' on women," said Skirbekk.
"The fact that many men are alone with a weak grip - a double burden for these men who lack both strength and a lack of support that comes from being married - suggests that more attention needs to be given to this group, particularly given their relatively poor health," he said.