Age-related muscle loss is more common among people living in disadvantaged areas, according to a new study from Trinity College Dublin.
This type of muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, was twice as common in adults with the most socioeconomic disadvantage compared to adults with the least socioeconomic disadvantage.
The findings were based on a cross-sectional analysis of data from 6,052 adults aged 60 years and over from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
“Probable sarcopenia” was measured according to guidelines for low muscle strength from the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People 2.
Education and subjective social status were also assessed as markers of socioeconomic position as part of the study.
The researchers found that just over one third of older people had probable sarcopenia.
The condition was found in 47 per cent of the most socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, but just 21 per cent of those who were more advantaged had it.
Other known risk factors such as older age, physical inactivity, chronic conditions, undernutrition and minority group ethnicity were identified.
Maintaining skeletal muscle strength is associated with better quality of life and lower risk of mobility-disability, hospitalisation and mortality.
“Sarcopenia is a worldwide public health issue, and like many diseases, we show that it places an unequal burden on the most socioeconomically disadvantaged in society,” said Maria O’Sullivan, Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical Medicine at Trinity College.
She said that socioeconomic disadvantage is likely to increase both the risk of developing sarcopenia and reduce access to prevention and treatments such as diet and exercise approaches.
“There is a need for greater awareness of skeletal muscle loss as we age, and for accessible and inclusive prevention programmes for older populations.”
The research was published in the journal Frailty and Aging on Thursday, and it supports recent results for Irish adults from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing.