Associations between social ties and hypertension are poorly understood in women and men. We investigated the association between marital status, living arrangement, social network size and social participation and hypertension by sex/gender.
Cross-sectional analysis of 28 238 middle-age and old-age adults (45–85 years) was conducted using the baseline Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging Comprehensive cohort data. Blood pressure (BP) was measured using the automated BpTRU device and hypertension was defined as BP more than 140/90 mmHg, or more than 130/80 mmHg in participants with diabetes, self-reported history or receiving antihypertensive therapy.
Being nonpartnered, having limited social participation (≤2 social activities per month) or a small social network size was associated with higher odds of having hypertension in women. Odds of hypertension were higher among widowed women [odds ratio 1.33 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.16, 1.51)] compared with married women. The largest difference in adjusted mean SBP in women was between widowed [3.06 mmHg (95% CI: 2.01, 4.11)], vs. married women. For men, lone-living (vs. coliving) was linked to a lower odds of hypertension [odds ratio 0.85 (95% CI: 0.75, 0.96)] When considering two social ties simultaneously, the adverse associations between nonpartnership (mainly for singles and divorced) and BP were mitigated with increased social participation, especially among women.
Social ties appear to be more strongly associated with hypertension in middle and older aged women than men. Women who are nonpartnered or who engage in few social activities and men who are coliving represent at risk groups for having hypertension. Healthcare professionals may need to consider these social factors in addressing risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease prevention.