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Low Wages Linked to Raised Risk for High Blood Pressure
Date:1/7/2013

f there were 110 million persons employed in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 65 per year during the entire timeframe of the study -- from 1999 until 2005 -- then a 10 percent increase in everyone's wages would have resulted in 132,000 fewer cases of hypertension each year," Leigh explained.

The researchers also calculated that doubling the wages of younger workers was associated with a 25 to 30 percent reduction in the risk for hypertension. For women, earning twice as much reduced their risk by 30 to 35 percent.

The study, which was published in the December issue of the European Journal of Public Health, could have been limited by the fact that it relied on participants to report a hypertension diagnosis, the researchers pointed out.

"Other research has shown that women are more likely than men to report a health diagnosis," noted Leigh. "However, the longitudinal nature of the data used in our study helps mitigate that natural bias, and self-reports of health do typically correlate with clinical data."

The study authors said more research is needed to explore the link between low wages and hypertension.

"If the outcomes are the same, we could have identified a way to help reduce the costs and personal impact of a major health crisis," Leigh concluded. "Wages are also a part of the employment environment that easily can be changed. Policymakers can raise the minimum wage, which tends to increase wages overall and could have significant public-health benefits."

Hypertension, which contributes to heart disease and stroke, affects approximately one in three adults in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also reports the condition costs more than $90 billion each year in health-care services, medications and missed work.

While the study found an association between wages and blood pressure levels, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

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