Ascribing meaning to hypertension: A qualitative study among African Americans with uncontrolled hypertension

Carla Boutin-Foster, Gbenga Ogedegbe, Joseph E. Ravenell, Laura Robbins, Mary E. Charlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The objective was to elicit patients' perceptions regarding the meaning of hypertension and to identify the personal, social, and environmental factors that might influence their perceptions. Design: Qualitative study. Setting: Adult ambulatory care practice. Participants: African American patients with uncontrolled hypertension. Intervention/Methods: In-depth structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 60 patients. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed by using grounded theory. Results: Patient descriptions of hypertension were grouped into three categories: 1) their thoughts on hypertension; 2) the consequences of hypertension; and 3) the impact that having hypertension had on their lifestyle. Factors that might have shaped how patients described hypertension were grouped into three categories: 1) the experiences of their social networks such as family and friends; 2) their personal experiences; and 3) information about hypertension that they might have gathered from the medical literature or during an encounter with a healthcare provider. Patients with family members who had experienced hypertension-related complications such as stroke were more likely to view hypertension as a serious condition. Patients who themselves experienced hypertension-related symptoms and who also had family members with a history of hypertensive disease were more likely to describe a willingness to make lifestyle changes. Conclusions: In this study, personal experiences, experiences of family and friends, and encounters with the healthcare environment influenced patients' perceptions of hypertension and their willingness to make lifestyle changes. These findings can be used as a framework for helping to tailor effective and culture-specific interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-34
Number of pages6
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007


  • African American
  • Hypertension
  • Qualitative study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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