Educational Disparities in Hypertension Prevalence and Blood Pressure Percentiles in the Health and Retirement Study.

TitleEducational Disparities in Hypertension Prevalence and Blood Pressure Percentiles in the Health and Retirement Study.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsZacher, M
JournalJ Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci
ISSN Number1758-5368

OBJECTIVE: Hypertension and uncontrolled high blood pressure (BP) are more prevalent among less educated older adults than those with more schooling. However, these dichotomous indicators may fail to fully characterize educational disparities in BP, a continuous measure that predicts morbidity and mortality across much of its range. This study therefore focuses on the distribution of BP, assessing educational disparities across BP percentiles in addition to disparities in hypertension and uncontrolled BP.

METHODS: Data are from the 2014-2016 Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative survey of older U.S. adults (n=14,498, ages 51-89). To examine associations between education, hypertension, and uncontrolled BP, I estimate linear probability models. To assess relationships between education and BP, I fit linear and unconditional quantile regression models.

RESULTS: Less educated older adults are not only more likely to have hypertension and uncontrolled BP than those with more schooling; they also have higher systolic BP across nearly the entire BP distribution. Educational disparities in systolic BP increase in magnitude across BP percentiles and are largest at BP's highest levels. This pattern is observed for those with and without diagnosed hypertension; is robust to early-life confounders; and is only partially explained by socioeconomic and health-related circumstances in adulthood.

DISCUSSION: Among older U.S. adults, the distribution of BP is compressed at lower, healthier levels for those with more education, and skewed towards the highest, most harmful levels among the less-educated. Educational inequities in hypertension awareness and treatment efficacy may underlie these patterns. Implications for fundamental cause theory are discussed.

Citation Key13309
PubMed ID37279558