Using data collected between March 2004 and February 2005, Leigh and Du looked at 7,289 men and women over the age of 65. Their occupations during working years ran the gamut from managers and white-collar professionals to clerical and blue-collar workers. Just a small percentage was still working at the time the data was collected 10 percent of 65-year-olds and 2 percent of 75-year-olds.
The researchers then divided sub-samples by age groups 65 and older, 70 and older and 75 and older as well as by job type, job tenure, gender and physician diagnosis of hypertension. After controlling for variables such as education, race, income, smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index and co-morbidities, they analyzed the data for statistical associations.
What they found with retirees was consistent with studies of those who are currently employed: higher-status occupations are associated with less hypertension than lower-status occupations.
"For a long time, the conventional wisdom was that the people at the top would be more likely to have hypertension, but just the opposite is true," said Leigh. "Hypertension is more common among people on the lowest rungs of the occupational ladder."
Unlike executives and professionals like architects and engineers, Leigh explained, workers in positions such as sales, administrative support, construction and food preparation have little control over decision-making, are under pressure to get a specified amount of work done in a certain amount of time and may feel inadequate about their positions in the workplace hierarchy. Consequently, their stress levels tend to be higher, which can lead to high blood pressure and, eventually, hypertension.
There were two interesting gender-related distinctions bet
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University of California - Davis - Health System