A new study suggests that workers earning the lowest wages have a higher risk of hypertension than those who receive handsome salaries.
The correlation between wages and hypertension was especially strong among women and persons between the ages of 25 to 44.
"We were surprised that low wages were such a strong risk factor for two populations not typically associated with hypertension, which is more often linked with being older and male," J. Paul Leigh, senior author of the study and professor of public health sciences at UC Davis said.
"Our outcome shows that women and younger employees working at the lowest pay scales should be screened regularly for hypertension as well," Leigh said.
The study is believed to be the first to isolate the role of wages in hypertension, which occurs when the force of circulating blood against artery walls is too high.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hypertension affects approximately 1 in 3 adults in the US and costs more than 90 billion dollars each year in health-care services, medications and missed work days.
It also is a major contributor to heart disease and stroke, both of which are leading causes of death and disability.
While there is a known association between lower socioeconomic status (SES) and hypertension, determining the specific reason for that association has been difficult, according to Leigh.
Other researchers have focused on factors such as occupation, job strain, education and insurance coverage, with unclear results. Leigh's study was the first to focus on wages and hypertension.
"By isolating a direct and fundamental aspect of work that people greatly value, we were able to shed light on the relationship between SES and circulatory health," Leigh said.
"Wages are also a part of the employment environment that easily can be changed. Policymakers can raise the minimum wage, which tends to increase wages overall and could have significant public-health benefits," Leigh added.
The study is published in the European Journal of Public Health.