Background: Psychosocial stressors have been shown to predict hypertension in several cohort studies; patterns of importance, sex differences, and interactions with standard risk factors have not been fully characterized.
Methods: Among 2357 adults in a population sample of Alameda County, California, free of hypertension in 1974, 637 reported in 1994 having ever used antihypertensive medication (27.9% of the men and 26.3% of the women). The effects of baseline psychosocial, behavioral, and sociodemographic factors on the incidence of treated hypertension were examined using multiple logistic regression.
Results: Low education, African American race, low occupational prestige, worry about job stability, feeling less than very good at one's job, social alienation, and depressive symptoms each had significant (P<.05) age-adjusted associations with incident hypertension. Associations were weakened by adjustment for body mass index, alcohol consumption, smoking status, and leisure time physical activity, especially the associations of anomy and depression, which persisted in women but not in men. In multivariate models, job insecurity (odds ratio, 1.6), unemployment (odds ratio, 2.7), and low self-reported job performance (odds ratio, 2.1) remained independent predictors of hypertension in men, whereas low-status work (odds ratio, 1.3) was an independent predictor of hypertension in women.
Conclusions: In the general population, low occupational status and performance and the threat or reality of unemployment increase the likelihood of developing hypertension, especially among men, independent of demographic and behavioral risk factors. Psychological distress and social alienation may also increase hypertension incidence, especially in women, chiefly through an association with health risk behaviors.