Grip Strength Is Associated With Cognitive Performance in Schizophrenia and the General Population: A UK Biobank Study of 476559 Participants

Joseph Firth, Brendon Stubbs, Davy Vancampfort, Josh A Firth, Matthew Large, Simon Rosenbaum, Mats Hallgren, Philip B Ward, Jerome Sarris, Alison R Yung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Handgrip strength may provide an easily-administered marker of cognitive functional status. However, further population-scale research examining relationships between grip strength and cognitive performance across multiple domains is needed. Additionally, relationships between grip strength and cognitive functioning in people with schizophrenia, who frequently experience cognitive deficits, has yet to be explored.

Methods: Baseline data from the UK Biobank (2007-2010) was analyzed; including 475397 individuals from the general population, and 1162 individuals with schizophrenia. Linear mixed models and generalized linear mixed models were used to assess the relationship between grip strength and 5 cognitive domains (visual memory, reaction time, reasoning, prospective memory, and number memory), controlling for age, gender, bodyweight, education, and geographical region.

Results: In the general population, maximal grip strength was positively and significantly related to visual memory (coefficient [coeff] = -0.1601, standard error [SE] = 0.003), reaction time (coeff = -0.0346, SE = 0.0004), reasoning (coeff = 0.2304, SE = 0.0079), number memory (coeff = 0.1616, SE = 0.0092), and prospective memory (coeff = 0.3486, SE = 0.0092: all P < .001). In the schizophrenia sample, grip strength was strongly related to visual memory (coeff = -0.155, SE = 0.042, P < .001) and reaction time (coeff = -0.049, SE = 0.009, P < .001), while prospective memory approached statistical significance (coeff = 0.233, SE = 0.132, P = .078), and no statistically significant association was found with number memory and reasoning (P > .1).

Conclusions: Grip strength is significantly associated with cognitive functioning in the general population and individuals with schizophrenia, particularly for working memory and processing speed. Future research should establish directionality, examine if grip strength also predicts functional and physical health outcomes in schizophrenia, and determine whether interventions which improve muscular strength impact on cognitive and real-world functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728-736
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number4
Early online date19 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2018


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognitive Dysfunction/etiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Hand Strength/physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term/physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance/physiology
  • Schizophrenia/complications


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