Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) has been reported to be highly expressed in essential hypertension (EH), and it has been proposed that HCMV infection may contribute to EH development. However, different studies showed opposite results. The present meta-analysis was performed to investigate the association between HCMV infection and the risk of EH. All relevant literature from 1980 to 2015 was extracted from six electronic databases. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were used to assess the strength of the association of HCMV infection and risk of EH. Sensitivity analysis and examination for bias were conducted to evaluate cumulative evidence of the association. The random-effect model using the Mantel–Haenszel method was used to give the individual effect-size estimates. Of the 11,878 participants included in this study, there were 3,864 EH patients and 8,014 control subjects. Meta-analysis of nine studies performed in a random-effect model found that EH patients had a higher risk of HCMV infection than normal control subjects (OR = 1.47, 95%CI: 1.13–1.90, P = 0.004; heterogeneity: I2 = 66%, P = 0.002). Sensitivity analysis and bias examination showed the overall quality and consistency of the studies to be acceptable. For subgroup analysis, studies of Chinese populations were selected for further analysis. There was a significant association between HCMV infection and EH among Chinese patients (OR = 2.18, 95%CI:1.43–3.31, P = 0.0003) but not among other ethnic groups (OR = 1.11, 95%CI:0.95–1.31, P = 0.19). These findings provide quantitative support for the association between HCMV infection and high risk of EH in individuals of Chinese ethnicity. J. Med. Virol. 88:852–858, 2016. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.