Muscular weakness in adolescence is associated with disability 30 years later: a population-based cohort study of 1.2 million men

Henriksson, Hanna; Henriksson, Pontus; Tynelius, Per; Ortega, Francisco B.

VL / 53 - BP / 1221 - EP / +
Objective To investigate the associations of muscular strength in adolescence with later disability pension (DP), across different body mass index (BMI) categories and in combination with aerobic fitness. Method This prospective cohort study consisted of males aged 16-19 years, recruited from the Swedish military conscription register between 1969 and 1994. A total of 1 212 503 adolescents met all the inclusion criteria and were therefore included in the analyses. Knee extension, handgrip and elbow flexion strength and aerobic fitness (bicycle ergometer test) were measured during conscription. Causes of DP were retrieved from the Social Insurance Office between years 1971 and 2012 (average follow-up time: 29.6 years). Results Knee extension strength in adolescence was inversely associated with men's risk of obtaining DP due to all causes (HR 1.40, 95% CI 1.36 to 1.44 for lowest vs highest strength quintile). Thus, muscular weakness was associated with DP. The risk associated with low muscular strength differed between specific causes of DP and the strongest associations were found for psychiatric, nervous system and other causes (HRs between 1.47 and 1.90 for lowest vs highest quintile). Being strong was associated with lower DP risk across BMI categories and being unfit, weak and obese was associated with the highest DP risk (HR 3.70, 95% CI 2.99 to 4.58). Conclusion There was a strong association between muscular weakness and disability. A combination of muscular weakness and low aerobic fitness was an especially important risk factor for disability. This adds weight to call for muscular strength and fitness enhancing exercise for adolescents in all BMI categories.
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