Low Pay, High Blood Pressure?

Hypertension linked to low paying jobs

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Stuck in a low-paying job? It's probably not doing your heart any favors. Lower wages have been linked to a greater risk of high blood pressure, particularly among women and younger individuals.

The finding suggests that lower income may be a risk factor for developing hypertension. Though an association was found, a cause and effect relationship was not identified.

However, it could help doctors target groups of patients who may be at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

"Monitor your blood pressure regularly."

J. Paul Leigh, senior author of the study and professor of public health sciences at University of California Davis Medical School, found stronger evidence that low wages may increase hypertension risk in individuals between the ages of 25 and 44, as well as in women.

The study is the first to examine a possible link between hypertension and wages, though previous research has included occupation type and job strain in relation to blood pressure.

Researchers analyzed data from a study that followed 17,295 employed individuals between the ages of 25 and 65. The data was collected every other year between 1999 and 2005. Investigators also looked at differences in age and gender.

Study participants were asked to self-report high blood pressure based on a previous diagnosis from a doctor. Individuals were excluded if they were obese, had other medical conditions or believed they were in poor health since the risk of hypertension was increased.

Wages were calculated as annual income from all sources and ranged from $2.38 an hour to $77 hourly in 1999.

Following the analysis, researchers concluded that lower wages were linked to a higher risk of hypertension, particularly among younger participants and women.

Doubling wages was associated with a 16 percent decreased risk of hypertension. Individuals between the ages of 25 and 44 who made twice as much money were up to 30 percent less likely to develop hypertension, while women with double the income had a decreased risk of up to 35 percent.

Leigh said it was surprising to find that low wages were such a strong risk factor for high blood pressure among women and younger workers since hypertension tends to be more prevalent in men and older patients.

“Our outcome shows that women and younger employees working at the lowest pay scales should be screened regularly for hypertension as well,” he said.

 A limitation of the study was a reliance on participants to self-report high blood pressure, particularly since past research shows that women are more likely to self-report health conditions as compared to men.

A portion of the study was funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. The study was published in the European Journal of Public Health.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 3, 2013
Last Updated:
January 6, 2013