Psychological Distress and Hypertension: Results from the National Health Interview Survey for 2004-2013

Cardiorenal Med. 2016 May;6(3):198-208. doi: 10.1159/000443933. Epub 2016 Feb 25.


Background/aims: Psychological conditions are increasingly linked with cardiovascular disorders. We aimed to examine the association between psychological distress and hypertension.

Methods: We used data from the National Health Interview Survey for 2004-2013. Hypertension was self-reported and the 6-item Kessler Psychological Distress Scale was used to assess psychological distress (a score ≥13 indicated distress). We used a logistic regression model to test the assumption that hypertension was associated with psychological distress.

Results: Among the study participants completing the survey (n = 288,784), 51% were female; the overall mean age (±SEM) was 35.3 ± 0.02 years and the mean body mass index was 27.5 ± 0.01. In the entire sample, the prevalence of psychological distress was 3.2%. The adjusted odds of reporting hypertension in psychologically distressed individuals was 1.53 (95% CI = 1.31-1.80, p = 0.01).

Conclusion: The findings suggest that psychological distress is associated with higher odds of hypertension after adjusting for other risk factors for high blood pressure. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings and to elucidate the mechanisms by which stress increases hypertension risk.

Keywords: Emotional distress; Hypertension; Kessler Psychological Distress Scale.