Effects of labeling patients as prehypertensive.
BACKGROUND: Labeling patients as hypertensive has some negative effects. The effects of being labeled as having prehypertension are unknown. We examined whether the label of prehypertension exerts a negative effect on patients' perceived health and whether it motivates people to adopt lifestyle recommendations to prevent hypertension. METHODS: We randomized 97 prehypertensive adults to either a labeling message or a generic (no label) message. At 3 months we assessed self-reports of change in perceived health and reported adoption of lifestyle recommendations to try to prevent hypertension. RESULTS: Except for more participants with asthma in the label group, the 2 groups were similar at baseline. Among the 70 participants who provided 3-month follow-up data, 18 people (56%) in the no-label group and 22 people (58%) in the label group reported their health as the same; 13 people (41%) in the no label group and 16 people (42%) in the label group reported health as better; and 1 person (in no label group) reported his health as worse. At 3 months there were no differences in reports of changing eating habits (risk ratio [RR], 1.06; 95% CI, 0.86-1.31), cutting down on salt (RR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.84-1.15), reducing alcohol intake (RR, 1.23; 95% CI, 0.80-1.90), or exercising (RR, 1.17; 95% CI, 0.91-1.51) to try to prevent hypertension. CONCLUSION: Being labeled as prehypertensive seems to exert neither harmful nor helpful effects.
Viera, AJ; Lingley, K; Esserman, D
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