Ethnicity and socioeconomic status: impact on cardiovascular activity at rest and during stress in youth with a family history of hypertension

Ethn Dis. Winter 2000;10(1):4-16.


Objective: The purpose of the present study was to examine the potential interaction of ethnicity and SES on hemodynamic functioning at rest and during acute stress in normotensive adolescents with a family history of essential hypertension (EH).

Design: The influences of ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES) on cardiovascular function were evaluated at rest and in response to five different laboratory stressors.

Methods: 110 (50 female) Caucasian and 162 (85 female) African-American normotensive youth (initial age 11.2+/-2.4 years) with a family history of essential hypertension (EH) were tested on two occasions, an average of 2.5 years apart. Based on previous findings, it was predicted that African Americans, particularly those of low SES, would exhibit higher resting blood pressure (BP) and greater cardiovascular reactivity to acute laboratory stressors than would Caucasians.

Results: As predicted, African-American youth exhibited higher resting diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and total peripheral resistance (TPR) than Caucasians on both visits (both Ps<.04). African Americans exhibited greater systolic blood pressure (SBP) reactivity than did Caucasians to the video game stressor during both lab visits (both Ps<.02) and greater heart rate reactivity during the first lab visit (P<.01). African Americans exhibited greater SBP and/or DBP, and TPR reactivity to the cold pressor during the first lab visit and the parent-child discussion during the second visit (all Ps<.03).

Conclusion: As predicted, African Americans exhibited higher resting BP and TPR, and greater cardiovascular reactivity than Caucasians. Although not in the predicted direction, a pattern of interactions began to emerge on the second evaluation. For example, upper SES youth exhibited greater heart rate reactivity compared to all other groups on the social competence interview and parent-child discussion stressors. Further study is needed to clarify the role cardiovascular reactivity may play in the link between ethnicity, SES, and cardiovascular disease risk.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans
  • Anthropometry
  • Blood Pressure / genetics
  • Child
  • Demography
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / ethnology*
  • Hypertension / genetics*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Social Class*
  • Stress, Physiological / ethnology*
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology