The force of a man’s bite at age 70 may be a marker of his longevity, says a study in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation.

The risk of dying before reaching their mid-80s was 84% higher in men with a weaker bite than those with a stronger bite, the study found. The association was significant even when such factors as tooth loss and severe gum disease were included in the analysis.

No connection was found between jaw strength and long-term survival in women of the same age group.

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Low bite force may be a sign of musculoskeletal decline that can ultimately lead to disability and death, the study suggests. Low intake of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can also affect oral health and increase people’s vulnerability to chronic disease, the researchers said.

The study, conducted in Japan, involved 559 people born in 1927, who were enrolled in a larger study in 1998. At the start of that study, the subjects underwent dental and medical examinations and reported personal information, such as diet, chewing ability and smoking habits, on surveys.

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