John Henryism, socioeconomic position, and blood pressure in a multi-ethnic urban community

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Ethnicity & disease


OBJECTIVES: The John Henryism (JH) hypothesis suggests that, under adverse social and economic conditions, high-effort coping styles that reflect hard work and determination may contribute to elevated blood pressure. Results from tests of this hypothesis have been mixed, with variations by region, urban versus rural areas, race, gender, and age. The majority of studies reporting that socioeconomic position modifies associations between JH and blood pressure have been for non-Latino Blacks in rural communities. In contrast, most studies conducted in urban areas report little support for the JH hypothesis. Few studies have been conducted in samples that include Latinos. We extend previous research by testing the JH hypothesis in a multi-ethnic, low-to-moderate income urban community.

DESIGN: We used multivariate linear regression to test the hypothesis that associations between JH and blood pressure were modified by income, education, or labor force status in a multi-ethnic (non-Latino Black, Latino, non-Latino White) sample (N=703) in Detroit, Michigan. The outcome measures were systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP).

RESULTS: John Henryism was associated with higher SBP (β=3.92, P=.05), but not DBP (β=1.85, P=.13). These associations did not differ by income, education, or labor force status. Results did not differ by race or ethnicity.

CONCLUSIONS: John Henryism is positively associated with SBP in this multi-ethnic, low-to-moderate income sample. This association did not differ by income, education, or labor force status. Results are consistent with studies conducted in urban communities, finding limited evidence that associations between JH and blood pressure vary by socioeconomic position.

Medical Subject Headings

Adaptation, Psychological; Adult; African Continental Ancestry Group; Educational Status; Employment; European Continental Ancestry Group; Female; Hispanic Americans; Humans; Hypertension; Income; Male; Michigan; Middle Aged; Risk Factors; Social Class; Urban Population

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