Adolescent males with low muscle strength run an increased risk of premature death later, according to study.

Researchers collected information on BMI, blood pressure, and muscle strength (knee extension, handgrip, and elbow flexion) from more than a million young men, ages 16-19, at the start of the study.

The group was followed over a period of 24 years to see who died. During follow up, 26,145 of the participants died. Premature death was defined as dying before age 55.

The leading cause of death was suicide (22.3%), followed by cancer (14.9%), and cardiovascular disease (7.8%). Adolescents in the group with the lowest muscular strength had the highest risk of premature death from several causes.

Higher muscular strength (as measured by knee extension and handgrip tests) was associated with a 20% to 35% lower risk of all-cause and CVD death after controlling for BMI and blood pressure.

The magnitude of risk associated with lower muscle strength is similar to that of traditional risk factors such as higher BMI and blood pressure.

Higher muscle strength was also associated with a 20% to 30% lower risk of suicide and a 15% to 65% lower risk of having been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.

Muscle strength was not associated with death from cancer.

Low muscular strength in adolescence should be considered as an emerging risk factor for premature death, say the authors.