How strong does your grip need to be for a handshake to close a deal? Apparently, the answer is: Not very. Researchers periodically test people’s hand strength in order to collect data about various aspects of health. In a recent study updating information collected in 1985, researchers found that compared with men 30 years ago, the hand strength of millennial men is much weaker.
In the study, people were given tasks that would test how hard they could grip things and how hard they could pinch things.
Compared with women in the previous studies, the grip strength of women ages 20 to 24 and 25 to 29 decreased—but not as much as that of the men’s groups. In women ages 30 to 34, grip strength actually increased.
In all of the men’s age groups, overall hand strength declined over the last three decades. For example, in those 25 to 29, right-hand grip strength lowered by 25.8 pounds and left-hand grip by 18.9 pounds.
Researchers pointed out the drop parallels the changing landscape of American jobs. Between 1910 and 2000, manufacturing and farming jobs declined, while sedentary jobs skyrocketed.
Millennial men shouldn’t feel too bad. Their bodies have been changing based on their work for centuries. Studying skeletons of our ancestors, researchers found that the way the bones were structured indicated humans became a lot less mobile after the advent of agriculture.
But just because these changes are tied to shifts in livelihood doesn’t make them healthy. Other research has found that poor grip strength can indicate illness such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
While you may not need to chop wood for fuel or battle wild animals for your meals any more, your hand strength is still a good barometer of your overall health.