Time trends and socioeconomic differences in blood pressure levels: The Northern Sweden MONICA study 1994–2014

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People with low socioeconomic status have higher blood pressure (BP), increasing their risk of myocardial infarction and stroke. We hypothesized that the gap in systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) BP, according to educational level, has decreased over time but, that economical vulnerability would confer higher BP.


A total of 4564 women and 4363 men aged 25–74 years participated in five population-based surveys in the Northern Sweden MONICA study between 1994 and 2014 (participation rate 76.8–62.5%).


SBP decreased by 10 mmHg in women and 4 mmHg in men, while DBP was unchanged. Treatment with antihypertensives increased in all but the youngest men. The prevalence of BP control in the population (<140/90 mmHg) increased and in 2014 reached 75% among women and 70% among men. The decrease in SBP was more pronounced in people without university education than in people with university education and DBP showed the same pattern, regardless of education.


After adjustment for confounding factors, age, male sex, higher body mass index, and being born in a Nordic country were related to higher SBP and DBP. University education was related to lower SBP, while variables mirroring economic vulnerability were not associated with BP levels.


BP levels as well as the socioeconomic gap in BP has decreased in Sweden but people with a lower level of education still have higher SBP. Lacking economic resources is not associated with high BP.

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