Research Article

Low blood pressure, low mood?

BMJ 1992; 304 doi: (Published 11 January 1992) Cite this as: BMJ 1992;304:75
  1. J. A. Pilgrim,
  2. S. Stansfeld,
  3. M. Marmot
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


    OBJECTIVE--To determine whether a set of physical symptoms is associated with low blood pressure and to investigate the possible role of psychological factors in their occurrence. DESIGN--Analysis of data collected by questionnaire and physical screening from the first phase of the Whitehall II study, a cohort study of an employed population. SETTING--23 civil service departments in London. SUBJECTS--10,314 male and female London based civil servants aged between 35 and 55. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Symptoms of dizziness-giddiness and unexplained tiredness; psychological functioning as measured by the 30 item general health questionnaire in which the response "no more than usual" to an item about disease was scored as indicating chronic illness. RESULTS--Dizziness-giddiness in men and unexplained tiredness in both men and women were significantly related to low systolic blood pressure. There was a highly significant inverse relation between general health questionnaire score and systolic blood pressure for both men and women, which persisted after controlling for potentially confounding variables, including age, body mass index, drug treatment, physical illness, and exercise. This association of low blood pressure with physical symptoms was no longer significant when general health questionnaire score was controlled for. CONCLUSIONS--There seems a strong relation between low systolic blood pressure and minor psychological dysfunction. Associated physical symptoms seem to be secondary to the primary disturbance in mental state.