A low-paying job can put pressure on your heart as well as your budget. That’s the key finding of new research that found workers earning the lowest wages have a higher risk of high blood pressure than those in higher-paying jobs.
The study, by researchers from the University of California-Davis, found the link between wages and hypertension was especially strong among women and people between the ages of 25 to 44 years.
"We were surprised that low wages were such a strong risk factor for two populations not typically associated with hypertension, which is more often linked with being older and male," said lead researcher J. Paul Leigh, a professor of public health sciences at UC-Davis. "Our outcome shows that women and younger employees working at the lowest pay scales should be screened regularly for hypertension as well."
The study, published in the European Journal of Public Health, is believed to be the first to tie wages to hypertension, which occurs when the pressure of circulating blood against artery walls is too high. High blood pressure, a major contributor to heart disease and stroke, strikes 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. and costs more than $90 billion each year in healthcare services, medications, and missed work days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. SPECIAL: 4 Bodily Signs a Heart Attack Is Near. See Them Now!
Past studies have linked hypertension to lower socioeconomic status, job strain, education, and insurance coverage, but Leigh's study is the first to focus on wages as a risk factor.
To reach their conclusions, Leigh’s team examined information on the wages, employment, and health of 5,651 Americans and their spouses for three time periods: 1999-2001, 2001-03 and 2003-05. Wages ranged from about $2.38 to $77 per hour in 1999 dollars. Hypertension was determined by respondents' self-reports of a diagnosis from their physicians.
Among the team’s findings:
• Being in the youngest age group — between 25 and 44 years old — or being female were strong predictors of hypertension.
• Doubling the wages of younger workers was associated with a 25-30 percent decrease in the risk of a hypertension diagnosis.
• Doubling the wages of women was associated with a 30-35 percent decrease in the risk of a hypertension diagnosis.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.