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Gender-specific risk factors for incident sarcopenia: 8-year follow-up of the English longitudinal study of ageing
  1. Lin Yang1,
  2. Lee Smith2,
  3. Mark Hamer3
  1. 1 Department of Epidemiology, Center for Public Health, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  2. 2 The Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK
  3. 3 School of Sport, Exercise Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lin Yang, Department of Epidemiology, Center for Public Health, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna 1090, Austria; lin.yang{at}


Background The aetiology of age-related sarcopenia is not known.

Objectives To investigate if risk of developing sarcopenia differs by gender and to identify gender-specific risk factors of incident sarcopenia in a large population-based cohort of older English adults.

Methods The sample (n=3404; age 63.4 (SD 7.7) years; 54.1% women) comprised older community-dwelling adults recruited from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Sarcopenia was defined as handgrip <26 kg in men and <16 kg in women. Handgrip strength was assessed at baseline (2004/2005) and repeated at follow-up (2012/2013). Analysed risk factors included baseline anthropometric measures, smoking, vigorous and moderate physical activity, depressive symptoms, chronic illnesses and wealth. After excluding participants with sarcopenia at baseline, multivariable logistic regressions were used to explore baseline risk factors for incident sarcopenia.

Results During 8-year follow-up, 208 and 287 cases of sarcopenia were identified in men (n=1564) and women (n=1840), respectively. Women were at 20% (age adjusted OR=1.20, 95% CI 0.98 to 1.47) higher risk of developing sarcopenia than men. The inverse association between physical activity and sarcopenia risk was observed at moderate (OR=0.44, 95% CI 0.27 to 0.67) and vigorous (0.53, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.82) intensities in men and only vigorous (OR=0.44, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.68) intensity in women. Social factors, such as wealth, and chronic health conditions appeared to be more strongly associated with sarcopenia in men.

Conclusion Women are at higher risk of developing incident sarcopenia than men, and this is likely explained by a range of gender-specific risk factors.

  • gender
  • sarcopenia
  • handgrip strength

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  • Contributors LY and MH conceived the study. MH cleaned and analysed the data with input from LY. LY wrote the first draft on the manuscript with LS; MH revised the draft. All authors contributed to data interpretation, critical revisions and final approval of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was obtained from the London Multicentre Research Ethics Committee, compliant with the Declaration of Helsinki.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.