Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 29, Issue 8, pp 1098–1104 | Cite as

Hypertension Awareness and Control Among Young Adults in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health

  • Holly C. GoodingEmail author
  • Shannon McGinty
  • Tracy K. Richmond
  • Matthew W. Gillman
  • Alison E. Field
Original Research



Young adults are less likely than older adults to be aware they have hypertension or to be treated for hypertension.


To describe rates of hypertension awareness and control in a cohort of young adults and understand the impact of health insurance, utilization of preventive care, and self-perception of health on rates of hypertension awareness and control in this age group.


Cross-sectional study of 13,512 young adults participating in Wave IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in 2007–2008.


We defined hypertension as an average of two measured systolic blood pressures (SBP) ≥ 140 mmHg, diastolic blood pressures (DBP) ≥ 90 mmHg, or self-report of hypertension. We defined hypertension awareness as reporting having been told by a health care provider that one had high blood pressure, and assessed awareness among those with uncontrolled hypertension. We considered those aware of having hypertension controlled if their average measured SBP was < 140 mmHg and DBP was < 90 mmHg.


Of the 3,303 young adults with hypertension, 2,531 (76 %) were uncontrolled, and 1,893 (75 %) of those with uncontrolled hypertension were unaware they had hypertension. After adjustment for age, sex, race/ethnicity, weight status, income, education, alcohol and tobacco use, young adults with uncontrolled hypertension who had (vs. didn’t have) routine preventive care in the past 2 years were 2.4 times more likely (95 % confidence interval [CI] 1.68–3.55) to be aware, but young adults who believed they were in excellent (vs. less than excellent) health were 64 % less likely to be aware they had hypertension (OR 0.36, 95 % CI 0.23–0.57). Neither preventive care utilization nor self-rated health was associated with blood pressure control.


In this nationally representative group of young adults, rates of hypertension awareness and control were low. Efforts to increase detection of hypertension must address young adults’ access to preventive care and perception of their need for care.


hypertension young adult health services accessibility health status 



We thank Yuanjun Hu for thoughtful comments on the manuscript. Holly Gooding is supported in part by the Boston Children’s Hospital Office of Faculty Development Career Development Fellowship. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Holly C. Gooding
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Shannon McGinty
    • 3
  • Tracy K. Richmond
    • 1
    • 2
  • Matthew W. Gillman
    • 4
    • 5
  • Alison E. Field
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Division of Adolescent and Young Adult MedicineBoston Children’s HospitalBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department PediatricsHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of MedicineBeth Israel Deaconess HospitalBostonUSA
  4. 4.Obesity Prevention Program, Department of Population MedicineHarvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim Health Care InstituteBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of NutritionHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  6. 6.Department of EpidemiologyHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  7. 7.Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA

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