Negative Social Interactions and Incident Hypertension Among Older Adults

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Abstract

Objective:

To determine if negative social interactions are prospectively associated with hypertension among older adults.

Method:

This is a secondary analysis of data from the 2006 and 2010 waves of the Health and Retirement Study, a survey of community-dwelling older adults (age > 50 years). Total average negative social interactions were assessed at baseline by averaging the frequency of negative interactions across 4 domains (partner, children, other family, friends). Blood pressure was measured at both waves. Individuals were considered to have hypertension if they reported use of antihypertensive medications, had measured average resting systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or higher, or measured average resting diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or higher. Analyses excluded those who were hypertensive at baseline and controlled for demographics, personality, positive social interactions, and baseline health.

Results:

Twenty-nine percent of participants developed hypertension over the 4-year follow-up. Each 1-unit increase in the total average negative social interaction score was associated with a 38% increased odds of developing hypertension. Sex moderated the association between total average negative social interactions and hypertension, with effects observed among women but not men. The association of total average negative interactions and hypertension in women was attributable primarily to interactions with friends, but also to negative interactions with family and partners. Age also moderated the association between total average negative social interactions and hypertension, with effects observed among those ages 51–64 years, but not those ages 65 or older.

Conclusion:

In this sample of older adults, negative social interactions were associated with increased hypertension risk in women and the youngest older adults.

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