Roughly half of adults in the United States suffer from hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The medical condition causes about a half a million deaths a year and increases the risk for other serious medical problems like stroke and heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the U.S. And while we know that being overweight, lack of exercise, and a poor diet are physical factors that raise your risk of having high blood pressure, a new study found that certain social influences, such as marital status, are also linked to the condition.
For the Oct. 2020 study published in the Journal of Hypertension, scientists analyzed data collected from 28,238 Canadian men and women aged 45 to 85 who were participating in an ongoing study on aging. Using this data, researchers hoped to determine the “association between marital status, living arrangement, social network size, and social participation and hypertension by sex/gender.” Read on to discover the study’s fascinating findings, and to learn more about hypertension, check out The Biggest Myth About Blood Pressure You Need to Stop Believing.
One of the study’s key findings was the influence marital status had on the level of hypertension risk for women. In fact, compared to their married counterparts, single women had a 28 percent higher risk of hypertension, divorced women a 21 percent higher risk, and widowed women a 33 percent higher risk. And for more about the signs of poor heart health, check out All the Subtle Symptoms of Heart Disease Women Should Know.
When it comes to hypertension, men actually seemed to benefit from being single. “For men, lone-living (vs. co-living) was linked to a lower odds of hypertension,” the researchers said. And for the heart health risks men should be particularly aware of, check out 17 Silent Signs of a Heart Attack Men Can’t Afford to Miss.
When compared with the female participants who had the largest social networks—ranging from 220 to 573 people—women with the smallest number of friends, fewer than 85, were 15 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, the study found.
“Social ties matter for cardiovascular health, and they matter more for women,” study author, Annalijn I. Conklin, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, told The New York Times.
While social ties were an important factor for women, they had very little influence on the risk level for men. Neither the size of their social networks nor level of participation in social activities were found to have any significant association with high blood pressure, the study found. And for more up-to-date information delivered to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.