Effective equity-focused health policy
for hypertension in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) requires an understanding of the condition’s current socioeconomic gradients and how these are likely to change in the future as countries develop economically.
Objectives: This cross-sectional study aimed to determine how hypertension prevalence in LMICs varies by individuals’ education and household wealth, and how these socioeconomic gradients in hypertension prevalence are associated with a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.
Methods: We pooled nationally representative household survey data from 76 LMICs. We disaggregated hypertension prevalence by education and household wealth quintile, and used regression analyses to adjust for age and sex.
Results: We included 1,211,386 participants in the analysis. Pooling across all countries, hypertension prevalence tended to be similar between education groups and household wealth quintiles. The only world region with a clear positive association of hypertension with education or household wealth quintile was Southeast Asia. Countries with a lower GDP per capita had, on average, a more positive association of hypertension with education and household wealth quintile than countries with a higher GDP per capita, especially in rural areas and among men.
Conclusions: Differences in hypertension prevalence between socioeconomic groups were generally small, with even the least educated and least wealthy groups having a substantial hypertension prevalence. Our cross-sectional interaction analyses of GDP per capita with the socioeconomic gradients of hypertension suggest that hypertension may increasingly affect adults in the lowest socioeconomic groups as LMICs develop economically.