Relationship of depressive symptoms to hypertension in a household survey in Harlem

M. Reiff, S. Schwartz, Mary Northridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Two possible explanations for an hypothesized association between depression and hypertension were examined: (1) shared stress-related risk factors are associated with both depression and hypertension and (2) life-style factors associated with depression lead to hypertension. Methods: A predominantly black sample of 695 adults were interviewed in the Harlem Household Survey. Two measures of hypertension were used and compared-1) self-report and 2) elevated blood pressure (above 140/90 mm Hg)-on the basis of the mean of two blood pressure measures. Depressive symptoms were measured by use of a 24-item scale based on the Diagnostic Interview Schedule. Logistic regression models were used to test associations between hypertension and depressive symptoms, stressors, and life-style factors. Results: Depressive symptoms were associated with self-reported hypertension but not with elevated blood pressure. The association between self-reported hypertension and depressive symptoms was explained partly by shared stress-related risk factors but not by life-style factors. Several stressors and life-style variables were risk factors for elevated blood pressure independently of depressive symptoms. The findings are consistent with studies that have measured hypertension variously by either self-report or blood pressure. Possible explanations were explored (labeling and help-seeking) but were not supported by the data. Conclusions: An association was found between self-reported hypertension and depressive symptoms, which was explained partly by shared stress-related risk factors. Elevated blood pressure was associated with stressors and life-style factors but not with depressive symptomatology. Research on illness representations and cultural dimensions of health suggest avenues for further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)711-721
Number of pages11
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001


  • African American
  • Blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Self-report
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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