Researchers have revealed through a study that poorest and least educated people around the world suffer from hypertension far more often than their rich and educated counterparts.
People in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are some of the most affected by hypertension despite often presumed low rates of common risk factors like sedentary lifestyle and obesity.
Hypertension is a highly prevalent but modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is also estimated to be the leading cause of death in LMICs; however, hypertension is often thought to affect mainly wealthier individuals in those countries.
Researchers in this study looked at hypertension rates across levels of socioeconomic status to determine the association of educational attainment and household wealth with hypertension; whether and how the relationship between socioeconomic status and hypertension differs between regions; and how socioeconomic gradients of hypertension within countries are associated with level of economic development.
Researchers looked at more than 1.2 million people in 76 LMICs, which were categorized into six regions according to the World Health Organization’s regional groupings: Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. The median age was 40 years old and 58.5% were female.
They found that the differences in hypertension prevalence between groups divided according to education level and household wealth were small in most countries. Findings that researchers said may be “counterintuitive” because the poorest people in LMICs are often assumed to engage in large amounts of physical activity through manual labor and not be overweight or obese. However, other risk factors like aging and pollution, might be a cause of high hypertension rates. There were some variations in findings, including in Southeast Asia where there was a greater prevalence of hypertension in more educated and wealthier people and in countries with lower gross domestic product versus higher gross domestic product, but absolute differences were still small.