Objective: To describe socio-economic variations in the treatment and control of hypertension in England.
Design: Population based survey.
Subjects: Hypertensives numbering 5019, identified in the Health Survey for England for 1993-1994.
Outcome: Drug treatment and control of hypertension.
Results: A total of 1119/2208 (50.7%) hypertensive men, and 1620/2811 (57.6%) hypertensive women, were receiving anti-hypertensive medication. For men, the likelihood of receiving treatment increased with age, widowerhood or divorce, a family history of heart disease, low social support and increasing weight, but was decreased for men who lived alone, owned their own house, smoked or drank heavily. For women, obesity, a family history of heart disease and low social support increased their chance of treatment. A total of 534/1119 (47.7%) men, and 816/1620 (50.4%) of women on treatment, had their hypertension controlled to below 160/90 mmHg. Lack of control was more commonly due to isolated systolic hypertension rather than diastolic hypertension. Increasing age and smoking were associated with poorer control. Men who lived alone and had low social support were less likely to have their hypertension controlled, while those with a family history of heart disease were more likely to be controlled.
Discussion: We found little evidence for socio-economic or geographic differences in the management of hypertension. Variations in treatment rates can be explained by variations in use of primary care and opportunistic screening. Control was poorest among older people who are at the highest risk of cardiovascular events. Socially isolated men and smokers were less likely to be treated or controlled, and need to be targeted by future programmes to detect and treat hypertension.