NEW YORK, N. Y. — How firm is your handshake? According to new research, men with stronger grips are more likely to snag a wife than those with weaker grips.
A good, firm handshake not only makes a great first impression. It is associated with good health, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and lower mortality rates. And when it comes to love, a firm grip relays the message that a person is strong, independent and has excellent coping skills. Researchers at Columbia University wanted to find out whether grip strength also impacts marital status.
“Our results hint that women may be favoring partners who signal strength and vigor when they marry,” says Vegard Skirbekk, a professor at Columbia Aging Center and Mailman School of Population and Family Health, in a news release. “If longer-lived women marry healthier men, then both may avoid or defer the role of caregiver, while less healthy men remain unmarried and must look elsewhere for assistance.”
For the study, researchers turned to a population-based study of two groups of Norwegians, one group born from 1923 to 1935 and a second group born from 1936 to 1948. The 5,009 participants were asked to squeeze a rubber balloon, and a vigorimeter measured their handgrip strength.
The goal was to determine whether grip strength had any sort of link to marital status in individuals between the ages of 59 and 71. The information was then matched to the Norwegian national death registry.
Researchers determined that there were more unmarried men with low grip strength in the second group, born from 1936 to 1948. They think this may point toward societal trends that have downplayed the importance of marriage. While grip strength is a good indicator of overall well-being, including the ability to lead a physically and socially active life, marriage also offers many of these same health benefits.
“In recent decades, women are less dependent on men economically. At the same time, men have a growing ‘health dependence’ on women,” says 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.”
For aging men in this group, researchers recommend living situations that encourage socializing. They say counseling should be made available as well as information on how to stay healthy while living alone.
“New technologies may potentially offset some of the limitations that low grip strength may imply,” says Skirbekk. “Social policies could also increasingly target this group by providing financial support for those who suffer the double-burden of low strength and lack of spousal support.”
The study determined that grip strength in women was not a factor in their marital status.
The study’s findings are published online in the August 2018 edition of the journal SSM-Population Health.