The relationship between modernization and blood pressure has been formally examined in anthropology for some 3 decades. A prominent hypothesis to account for the increase in blood pressure in more modernized (or economically developed) communities is the stressful nature of cultural and social change. Research has progressed from hypothesizing that culture change is stressful to trying to operationalize theoretical models of what it is about culture change that is stressful and in turn relating those more precise variables to blood pressure variability within and between communities. Here, I selectively review the literature on modernization and blood pressure, especially the research literature that explicitly uses models of the stress process to guide that research. The most interesting results have been obtained when the use of the stress model has been informed by careful ethnographic work. This has enabled researchers to adapt models of the stress process to be culturally appropriate in local populations. In addition, incorporating an explicit model of culture, especially one that is sensitive to intracultural diversity, has led to new hypotheses regarding the modification of the effects of stressors by social and cultural context. I conclude with a discussion of recent innovations in ethnographic methods, specifically the cultural consensus model, and the use of those methods in operationalizing relevant variables in culturally appropriate and sensitive ways. The utility of combining these methods in the study of modernization and blood pressure is illustrated by recent research in Brazil.
Dressler, William W.
"Modernization, Stress, and Blood Pressure: New Directions in Research,"
4, Article 6.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/humbiol/vol71/iss4/6