NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Your handshake says a lot about you, but there’s new evidence suggesting it says more than you think.

Warren Sanderson, an economics professor at Stony Brook University, authored a study that found handshakes are an indicator of a person’s “true age,” CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

“We’re trying to look at people by their characteristics — what their bodies tell us, not by what their birthdays tell us,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson’s study, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, found hand-grip strength corresponds with overall health and predicts how fast people show the signs of aging.

“The strength of people’s hand grips was an absolutely wonderful predictor of their future illnesses and their future life spans,” Sanderson said.

He found other trends, too. For example, less-educated people with less access to health care have weaker handshakes. Weak handshakes, meanwhile, are associated with lower life expectancy, higher rates of disease and faster rates of cognitive decline.

Those with lower education levels aged four years faster than people with higher education, the research found.

Sanderson said his findings suggest the hand-grip test should be performed in patients’ annual physical.

People interviewed by Gusoff said they take stock of their handshake.

“I’m wondering, OK, am I being firm enough? Not too firm? Is it a good handshake,” one woman said. “Because they do tell you that it means a lot.”

“I think I try to make it firm just show authority,” another woman said.

“A firm handshake again describes your manhood,” one man said.

However, many said they didn’t know a wimpy handshake is more about the likelihood of health problems.

“My wife has bad arthritis, and she can’t hand shake,” a man told Gusoff.

Sanderson and co-author Serguei Scherbov, deputy program director for the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, reviewed findings from more than 50 published studies that focused on the handshakes of people around the world. Since the measure is already commonly used, data is readily available, the researchers said.

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