Social climbing 'cuts risk of high blood pressure'

Image caption Occupation of both generations were recorded

Social climbing could be good for your blood pressure, a study has suggested.

Swedish researchers, writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, looked at the blood pressure of 12,000 same sex twins and the social status of them and their parents.

Those born with lower socioeconomic status who then moved upwards had lower incidence of high blood pressure than those who remained in a poorer class.

British experts said action was needed to narrow the class gap on health.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

But the effect of moving into a higher socioeconomic group was unknown.

One theory says moving into a different social bracket than that of your family and the people you grow up with causes added stress, while another argues that "social climbing" will in itself improve health chances.

In this study, researchers from the Karolinska Institute used data from the Swedish Twin Registry to track adult and parental socioeconomic status among 12,000 same sex twins born between 1926 and 1958.

A postal survey on health and lifestyle was carried out in 1973, and a phone interviews were conducted between 1998 and 2002 as part of the Screening Across the Lifespan Study (SALT).

Questions included any treatment for high blood pressure. Parental occupations were obtained from birth records, which routinely contain this type of information in Sweden.


Compared with those who stayed on the lower rungs of the social ladder, those who rose up were less likely to have high blood pressure - 12.5% of those who moved up compared to 15.4 who did not.

Overall, people with a low socioeconomic status were more likely to have high blood pressure (17.1%) than those of a high status (12.9%).

Writing in the journal, the team led by Dr Lovisa Hogberg, said: "These findings suggest that the risk of hypertension associated with low parental social status could be modified by social status later in life.

"This could possibly be targeted by early introduced public health or political interventions."

Cathy Ross, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study adds further evidence that socioeconomic differences influence our health.

"Low socioeconomic status can increase the risk of poor health and in particular risk factors associated with heart disease such as high blood pressure.

"Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that improving people's socioeconomic status can help improve their health awareness and reduce the health risks associated with their environment."

"Action is needed at a national and local level to close the heart health gap between affluent and deprived groups, and to make sure people aren't left behind."

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