Introduction: In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), data on hypertension prevalence in terms of urban or rural and sex difference are lacking, heterogeneous or contradictory. In addition, there are no accurate estimates of hypertension burden.
Objective: To estimate the age-specific and sex-specific prevalence of arterial hypertension in SSA in urban and rural adult populations.
Methods: We searched for population studies, conducted from 1998 through 2008 in SSA. We extracted data from selected studies on available prevalences and used a logistic regression model to estimate all age/sex/habitat (urban/rural)/country-specific prevalences for SSA up to 2008 and 2025. On the basis of the United Nations Population Fund data for 2008 and predictions for 2025, we estimated the number of hypertensives in both years.
Results: Seventeen studies pertaining to 11 countries were analysed. The overall prevalence rate of hypertension in SSA for 2008 was estimated at 16.2% [95% confidence interval (CI) 14.1–20.3], ranging from 10.6% in Ethiopia to 26.9% in Ghana. The estimated prevalence was 13.7% in rural areas, 20.7% in urban areas, 16.8% in males, and 15.7% in women. The total number of hypertensives in SSA was estimated at 75 million (95% CI 65–93 million) in 2008 and at 125.5 million (95% CI 111.0–162.9 million) by 2025.
Conclusion: The estimated number of hypertensives in 2008 is nearly four times higher than the last (2005) estimate of the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa. Prevalences were significantly higher in urban than in rural populations. Population data are lacking in many countries underlining the need for national surveys.