SAPPORO, Japan – Low socioeconomic status is linked to reduced life expectancy and is considered a risk factor for poor health and premature death. Despite this, a new study by researchers at the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan reveals that men with a higher income have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure versus those with a lower income.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the global leading cause of premature death. More than 1 billion people around the world suffer from the condition.
“High blood pressure is a lifestyle-related disease,” explained researcher Shingo Yanagiya in a media release. “As a physician seeing these patients I wanted to know if risk varies with socioeconomic class, to help us focus our prevention efforts.”
To study the link between hypertension and socioeconomic status, Yanagiya and his research team examined income and health data from 4,314 Japanese employees (including 3,153 men and 1,161 women) from 12 different workplaces. Participants, who were enrolled in 2012, held daytime jobs and had normal blood pressure at the start of the study.
The researchers divided participants into four groups based on income. They tracked each group for two years and looked at how likely each group was to develop high blood pressure.
Wealthy men, but not women at risk for high blood pressure
The findings reveal that men in the highest income bracket are two times as likely to develop high blood pressure than those in the lowest income bracket. This is true even when controlling for baseline blood pressure, worksite, occupation, number of family members, and smoking.
When accounting for alcohol intake and BMI, the relationship is slightly weaker. This suggests that these factors also contribute to risk for hypertension.
Interestingly, the researchers say there’s no link between income and blood pressure in women.
“Some previous Japanese surveys have reported that higher household income is associated with more undesirable lifestyles in men, but not in women,” says Yanagiya. “Our study supports this: men, but not women, with higher household incomes were more likely to be obese and drink alcohol every day. Both behaviours are major risk factors for hypertension.”
“Men with high-paying daytime jobs are at particular risk of high blood pressure. This applies to men of all ages, who can greatly decrease their chance of a heart attack or stroke by improving their health behaviours,” he adds.
The study findings will be presented at the 84th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Japanese Circulation Society (JCS 2020). The event will be online from July 27th, 2020 to August 2nd, 2020.