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Social support buffering of the relation between low income and elevated blood pressure in at-risk African-American adults

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Socioeconomic disadvantage has been linked to elevated blood pressure (BP), and the purpose of this study was to assess whether interpersonal social supports buffer these adverse relations in African-American adults. In three communities matched demographically, a subsample of participants (N = 204) of the Positive Action for Today’s Health trial provided measures of perceived social support, annual household income, and BP. Multiple regression analyses with cross-product interactions were conducted using follow-up data. The sample had a mean age of 52.8 years (SD = 15.1), and was predominantly female (66 %) with a high body mass index (M = 33.5, SD = 14.7). Results indicated an inverse relation between social support and diastolic BP (B = −.178, p = .005), and also an interaction with income (p = .046), such that higher social support related to lower diastolic BP in the lowest-income individuals (B = −1.05). The same direct (B = −.141, p = .025) and interacting (B = −1.42, p = .040) social support effects were present for systolic BP, however the omnibus model for systolic BP was not significant, F(6, 196) = 1.80, p = .09. The hypothesized buffering effect of social support on the adverse relation of income to BP was partially supported in at-risk African-American adults. Future prevention efforts for reducing the impact of socioeconomic stress on BP may aim to increase perceptions of social support.

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This research was supported by the National Institute on Aging (F31AG039930 to SMC and DKW), the National Institute of Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R01DK067615 to DKW), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01HD072153 to DKW), and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (T32GM081740).

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Correspondence to S. M. Coulon.

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S. M. Coulon and D. K. Wilson have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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The research was conducted in accordance with ethical standards outlined by the University of South Carolina’s Institutional Review Board.

Human and animal rights and Informed Consent

All procedures performed with human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards, and informed consent procedures were completed prior to participation.

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Coulon, S.M., Wilson, D.K. Social support buffering of the relation between low income and elevated blood pressure in at-risk African-American adults. J Behav Med 38, 830–834 (2015).

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