Race differences in the physical and psychological impact of hypertension labeling

Spruill, Tanya M.; Gerber, Linda M.; Schwartz, Joseph E.; Pickering, Thomas G.; Ogedegbe, Gbenga

Background - Blood pressure screening is an important component of cardiovascular disease prevention, but a hypertension diagnosis (i.e., label) can have unintended negative effects on patients' well-being. Despite persistent disparities in hypertension prevalence and outcomes, whether the impact of labeling differs by race is unknown. The purpose of this study was to evaluate possible race differences in the relationship between hypertension labeling and health-related quality of life and depression.

Methods - The sample included 308 normotensive and unmedicated hypertensive subjects from the Neighborhood Study of Blood Pressure and Sleep, a cross-sectional study conducted between 1999 and 2003. Labeled hypertension was defined (by self-report) as having been diagnosed with high blood pressure or prescribed antihypertensive medications. Effects of labeling and race on self-reported physical and mental health and depressive symptoms were tested using multivariate analysis of covariance, controlling for age, sex, body mass index (BMI), previous medication use, and “true” hypertension status, defined by average daytime ambulatory blood pressure (ABP).

Results - Both black and white subjects who had been labeled as hypertensive reported similarly poorer physical health than unlabeled subjects (P = 0.001). However, labeling was associated with poorer mental health and greater depressive symptoms only among blacks (Ps < 0.05 for the interactions). These findings were not explained by differences in socioeconomic status.

Conclusions - These results are consistent with previous studies showing negative effects of hypertension labeling, and demonstrate important race differences in these effects. Clinical approaches to communicating diagnostic information that avoid negative effects on well-being are needed, and may require tailoring to patient characteristics such as race.


  • thumnail for Spruill_Am_J_Hypertens_2012_PMC.pdf Spruill_Am_J_Hypertens_2012_PMC.pdf application/pdf 370 KB Download File

Also Published In

American Journal of Hypertension

More About This Work

Academic Units
Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health
Oxford University Press
Published Here
September 14, 2016