Background: The reasons for racial/ethnic disparities in hypertension (HTN) prevalence in the United States are poorly understood.
Methods: Using data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), we investigated whether individual- and neighborhood-level chronic stressors contribute to these disparities in cross-sectional analyses. The sample consisted of 2,679 MESA participants (45-84 years) residing in Baltimore, New York, and North Carolina. HTN was defined as systolic or diastolic blood pressure ≥140 or 90 mm Hg, or taking antihypertensive medications. Individual-level chronic stress was measured by self-reported chronic burden and perceived major and everyday discrimination. A measure of neighborhood (census tract) chronic stressors (i.e., physical disorder, violence) was developed using data from a telephone survey conducted with other residents of MESA neighborhoods. Binomial regression was used to estimate associations between HTN and race/ethnicity before and after adjustment for individual and neighborhood stressors.
Results: The prevalence of HTN was 59.5% in African Americans (AAs), 43.9% in Hispanics, and 42.0% in whites. Age- and sex-adjusted relative prevalences of HTN (compared to whites) were 1.30 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.22-1.38) for AA and 1.16 (95% CI: 1.04-1.31) for Hispanics. Adjustment for neighborhood stressors reduced these to 1.17 (95% CI: 1.11-1.22) and 1.09 (95% CI: 1.00-1.18), respectively. Additional adjustment for individual-level stressors, acculturation, income, education, and other neighborhood features only slightly reduced these associations.
Conclusion: Neighborhood chronic stressors may contribute to race/ethnic differences in HTN prevalence in the United States.