Grip Strength and Careers

A new report on the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation’s Grip test, Statistical Bulletin 2019-8, Occupational Plots for the Grip Test, highlights relationships between various occupational groups and grip strength. The Foundation added a test of grip strength to its standard battery of aptitudes in 2002. Since then, we have generally seen that those in fields associated with a higher level of physical activity tended to score higher on this test. Many of the high-scoring groups from this analysis confirmed previous hypotheses about grip strength. For both males and females, the groups with the highest mean Grip scores tended to represent occupations in which people work on their feet. 

Researchers David Schroeder and Ashley Brown faced some unique challenges in this study compared to other reports on the Foundation’s standard battery. As in other studies, Schroeder and Brown looked at all examinees who were currently or previously employed full-time when they came in for testing. Typically, only examinees who report a high level of satisfaction in their most recent role are used in occupational studies; however, since Grip is a newer test for the Foundation (added to the standard battery in 2002), examinees of all satisfaction levels were included in this report in order to preserve the sample size. Since male and female examinees receive such different scores on Grip, the full sample of 21,133 Foundation examinees was broken into male and female subsamples and analyzed separately: 10,941 male examinees and 10,192 female examinees. 

For both subsamples, the groups with greater grip strength tend to be in more physically demanding job roles than groups with low Grip scores. For male examinees, the occupational groups that showed a significant, positive correlation with Grip were carpentry, structural trades, construction management, investigative work, and athletics/sports. For female examinees, those working in agriculture, fishing, forestry, medicine, and medical therapy showed positive, significant correlations with Grip. However, many jobs, like carpentry and structural trades, had to be omitted in the female analysis because the sample sizes were less than 50. It should not be concluded that women in these fields do not have high Grip scores since the analysis was limited in being able to look at women in these fields. Career fields that had the most significant negative correlations with Grip were music, computing and account recording, post-secondary education, advertising, and law for male examinees and public relations, accountancy, and advertising for female examinees. 

Between both subsamples, higher mean Grip scores tend to be found in fields that are somewhat physically demanding or require people to be working on their feet throughout the day. The fields that had significant negative correlations with Grip strength also seem to support this trend, as they are fields that do not require regular physical work. The findings in this study are consistent with previous Foundation reports that looked at the correlations between grip strength and hobbies (Gaies 2009) and professional and college athletes (Wilhelm 2013). The Foundation is constantly striving to build on its research of aptitudes. Statistical Bulletin 2019-8, Occupational Plots for the Grip Test, adds a new piece of information about aptitudes and their role in occupational satisfaction that the Foundation’s clients can use to help inform their career decisions.