In mid-August 2022 the results of a major study examining the prevalence of arterial hypertension in various countries depending on the income level of the population were published. The authors of the study suggested that hypertension is a global problem that affects poorer countries as much as it affects more affluent ones. High blood pressure is sometimes assumed to be a result of "Westernized" lifestyles characterised by a high intake of calorie-dense foods and salt and low physical activity. As a result, the condition is frequently thought of as mainly afflicting wealthier segments of society in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which may in part be responsible for the low degree of funding and attention that hypertension in LMICs has received thus far. Traditionally, other global health issues, particularly HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, have received the lion's share of government funding. All this prompted the authors of the study to study the economic component of arterial hypertension.
A large cross-sectional study was conducted with a total of about 1.2 million adults included in 76 LMICs. The researchers analyzed nationally representative household survey data from LMICs. The median age of the participants was 40 years, and 58.5% were women. The researchers disaggregated hypertension prevalence by education and household wealth quintile, and used regression analyses to adjust for age and sex.
Pooling across all countries, hypertension prevalence tended to be similar between education groups and household wealth quintiles. Differences in hypertension prevalence between socioeconomic groups were generally small, with even the least educated and least wealthy groups having a substantial hypertension prevalence. The only world region with a clear positive association of hypertension with education or household wealth quintile was Southeast Asia.
The researchers believe that their analysis of the data shows the real situation in the prevalence of arterial hypertension in low socioeconomic groups as LMICs develop economically. Knowing the socioeconomic gradients associated with hypertension in LMICs and how these may change in the future is important for policy makers.