Low wages linked with hypertension

Study finds especially strong correlation among women, younger workers

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A new study by University of California at Davis researchers shows that workers with low wages are at a higher risk for hypertension than higher-paid workers.

Further, the link between low wages and hypertension was strongest among women and workers between the ages of 25 and 44.

"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," J. Paul Leigh, senior author of the study and professor of public health sciences at UC Davis, said in a statement. "Our outcome shows that women and younger employees working at the lowest pay scales should be screened regularly for hypertension as well."

The UC Davis study was published in the December issue of the European Journal of Public Health. (You can read the abstract here, but have to pay to see the entire study.)

Hypertension can be a killer, frequently leading to heart disease and stroke. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that hypertension afflicts one out of three adults in the country and costs $90 billion annually in health care, medication and absences from work.

Researchers studied more than 5,600 working adults between ages 25 and 65 over three time periods -- 1999 to 2001, 2001 to 2003 and 2003 to 2005.

Using regression analysis, the team determined that doubling wages was linked to an overall 16% decrease in the risk of a hypertension diagnosis. Wage hikes had an even more dramatic impact on women and younger workers. Doubling their wages led to a 25% to 30% decrease in the risk of a hypertension diagnosis among younger workers and a 30% to 35% decrease among women.

"Wages are also a part of the employment environment that easily can be changed," Leigh said. "Policymakers can raise the minimum wage, which tends to increase wages overall and could have significant public-health benefits."

Careful, doctor. Talk like that is sure to raise the blood pressure of our nation's job creators.

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