Research reveals men with higher salaries may be at risk for this health issue

Wealth and lots of money may make life more luxurious and comfortable, but according to a new study, rich men need to be extra careful about their blood pressure.

Researchers from the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine in Sapporo, Japan have concluded that working men with high salaries are more likely to develop high blood pressure. 

Iconic rapper the Notorious B.I.G. famously said in 1997 “more money, more problems.” This research serves to validate that claim. Adding some zeros to one’s bank account will certainly alleviate some of life’s worries, but with more earnings almost always comes more responsibility and stress.

“Men with higher incomes need to improve their lifestyles to prevent high blood pressure,” says study author Dr. Shingo Yanagiya of the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, in a release. “Steps include eating healthily, exercising, and controlling weight. Alcohol should be kept to moderate levels and binge drinking avoided.”

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is no niche problem. On a global scale, it’s estimated that over one billion people have high blood pressure. That’s roughly 30-45% of all human adults and over 60% of older individuals over the age of 60 years old. Furthermore, hypertension is the number one cause of premature death all over the world; in 2015 alone high blood pressure was linked to nearly 10 million deaths.

“High blood pressure is a lifestyle-related disease. As a physician seeing these patients I wanted to know if risk varies with socioeconomic class, to help us focus our prevention efforts,” Dr. Yanagiya explains.

So, the research team investigated any possible relationships between household incomes among Japanese employees and high blood pressure occurrence. In all, 4,314 adults with a daytime job (3,153 men & 1,161 women) signed up to have their health tracked for two years (2012-2014). All of those employees worked at 12 different organizations.

At the beginning of the tracking period, all participants were separated into four groups depending on their income. The lowest group consisted of people making less than five million Japanese yen annually (roughly $47,500). The other groups were as follows: 5 to 7.9 million yen ($47,500-$75,100 USD), 8 to 9.9 million yen ($76,000-$94,100 USD), and 10 million or more yen ($95,000+) annually.

In comparison to men making less than $47,500 per year, the men making over $95,000 were found to be nearly twice as likely to develop high blood pressure. Working men in the two middle-income brackets had a roughly 50% higher chance of developing hypertension in comparison to the lowest-earning male workers.

These findings remained consistent even after researchers accounted for age, family size, smoking habits, occupation, work environment, and baseline blood pressure readings. However, alcohol consumption and BMI did appear to somewhat weaken the relationship between income and hypertension risk. But, men making more money tended to report drinking more alcohol and higher BMIs anyway.

What about women? Surprisingly, there was no observed relationship between a woman’s annual income and her odds of developing high blood pressure. If anything women with higher household incomes actually appeared to be at a lower risk of hypertension.

“Some previous Japanese surveys have reported that higher household income is associated with more undesirable lifestyles in men, but not in women,” Dr. Yanagiya comments. “Our study supports this: men, but not women, with higher household incomes were more likely to be obese and drink alcohol every day. Both behaviours are major risk factors for hypertension.”

“Men with high-paying daytime jobs are at particular risk of high blood pressure. This applies to men of all ages, who can greatly decrease their chance of a heart attack or stroke by improving their health behaviors, he concludes.

As this research was conducted with only Japanese citizens, a similar study involving a more diverse participant sample is a logical next step. Still, this study makes a compelling argument that wealth can be a double-edged sword. 

This research was recently presented at the 84th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Japanese Circulation Society.