Social relationships and hypertension in late life: evidence from a nationally representative longitudinal study of older adults

J Aging Health. 2015 Apr;27(3):403-31. doi: 10.1177/0898264314551172. Epub 2014 Sep 23.


Objective: Social relationships are widely understood to be important for sustaining and improving health and longevity, but it remains unclear how different dimensions of social relationships operate through similar or distinct mechanisms to affect biophysiological markers of aging-related disease over time.

Method: This study utilized longitudinal data on a nationally representative sample of older adults from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (2005-2011) to examine the prospective associations between social integration and social support and change in systolic blood pressure (SBP) and hypertension risk over time.

Results: Although both social relationship dimensions have significant physiological impacts, their relative importance differs by outcome. Low social support was predictive of increase in SBP, whereas low social integration was predictive of increase in risk of hypertension.

Discussion: The different roles of relationship characteristics in predicting change in physiological outcomes suggest specific biophysiological stress response and behavioral mechanisms that have important implications for both scientific understandings and effective prevention and control of a leading chronic condition in late life.

Keywords: blood pressure; hypertension; longitudinal analysis; social integration; social support; stress response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Hypertension / psychology*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Support*
  • United States