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Doctors' Blood Pressure Rises as Income Drops, Study Shows

November 21, 1986|Associated Press

DALLAS — When doctors' average annual income declines, their blood pressure goes up and stays high for as long as five years, according to a study that shows it is not just poor people whose health is affected by economic status.

The finding, in a professional group with an average annual income of more than $100,000 in 1984, parallels findings previously made in blue-collar workers, said Robert Swank, an economist from Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore.

He presented his findings Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Assn.

"There are not many decreases in income among physicians, so their hypertension is fairly low," Swank said. But the national average of doctors' incomes did decline in six separate years since World War II, he added.

Sees Strong Link

For each 1% drop in income, the number of doctors with elevated blood pressure rose 2.5% the next year. "The association is strong," Swank said.

Swank studied 1,130 white males who were graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School between 1948 and 1964 and compared their incidence of blood pressure with national figures on doctors' incomes.

The incidence of high blood pressure, or hypertension, went up in each of the six years that doctors' income declined, and it remained higher than normal for five years after the decline, Swank said.

Previous studies have found that the overall population and blue-collar workers, in particular, suffer from poorer health during difficult economic times, Swank said.

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