Poor muscle strength indicates an increased risk of covid-19 among the elderly

Researchers from the division of ARC and the division of Physiotherapy have conducted a study that showed an association between poor muscle strength and an increased probability of COVID-19-like-symtoms among the elderly, especially among the oldest-old.

The researchers analyzed data from 904 individuals aged ≥ 68 years from the population-based Swedish National study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen (SNACK-K). COVID-19-like symptoms were assessed by phone interview during March–June 2020 and included fever, cough, sore throat and/or a cold, headache, pain in muscles, legs and joints, loss of taste and/or odor, breathing difficulties, chest pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, and eye inflammation. Muscle strength, mobility, and physical activity were examined in 2016–2018 by objective testing. Data were analyzed using logistic regression models in the total sample and stratifying by age.

During the first outbreak of the pandemic, 325 (36%) individuals from our sample developed COVID-19-like symptoms. Those with slower performance in the chair stand test had an odds ratio (OR) of 1.5 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1–2.1) for presenting with COVID-19-like symptoms compared to better performers, after adjusting for potential confounders. The association was even higher among people aged ≥ 80 years.

The conclusion was that poor muscle strength, a possible indicator of frailty, may predispose older adults to higher odds of developing COVID-19-like symptoms, especially among the oldest-old.


Associations of pre-pandemic levels of physical function and physical activity with COVID-19-like symptoms during the outbreak.
Saadeh M, Calderón-Larrañaga A, Vetrano DL, von Rosen P, Fratiglioni L, Welmer AK
Aging Clin Exp Res 2022 Jan;34(1):235-247

Content reviewer:
Annika Clemes