The association of metabolic and physiologic factors with hand osteoarthritis was studied in 888 Caucasian male subjects aged 17-102 years in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Left-hand radiographs taken between 1958 and 1975 were read by one investigator for grade of osteoarthritis using Kellgren-Lawrence scales. Possible risk factors, assessed at the same visit as the last radiograph during this interval, included age and measures of bone mass, body composition, muscle mass, and muscle strength. Results of bivariate analyses of these cross-sectional data showed that increasing grade of hand osteoarthritis was associated with increasing age; greater mean levels of waist/hip ratio and percentage of body fat; and lower mean levels of percentage of cortical area, grip strength, and forearm circumference. After adjustment for age using residuals from best-fit quadratic regression models, none of these independent variables remained significantly associated with grade of hand osteoarthritis. These data fail to support hypotheses that metabolic and physiologic factors are associated with hand osteoarthritis independent of their known age-related changes.