Hypertension is one of the most frequently diagnosed chronic conditions in Germany. Targeted prevention strategies and allocation of general practitioners where they are needed most are necessary to prevent severe complications arising from high blood pressure. However, data on chronic diseases in Germany are mostly available through survey data, which do not only underestimate the actual prevalence but are also only available on coarse spatial scales. The discussion of including area deprivation for planning of healthcare is still relatively young in Germany, although previous studies have shown that area deprivation is associated with adverse health outcomes, irrespective of individual characteristics. The aim of this study is therefore to analyze the spatial distribution of hypertension at very fine geographic scales and to assess location-specific associations between hypertension, socio-demographic population characteristics and area deprivation based on health insurance claims of the AOK Nordost.
To visualize the spatial distribution of hypertension prevalence at very fine geographic scales, we used the conditional autoregressive Besag–York–Mollié (BYM) model. Geographically weighted regression modelling (GWR) was applied to analyze the location-specific association of hypertension to area deprivation and further socio-demographic population characteristics.
The sex- and age-adjusted prevalence of hypertension was 33.1% in 2012 and varied widely across northeastern Germany. The main risk factors for hypertension were proportions of insurants aged 45–64, 65 and older, area deprivation and proportion of persons commuting to work outside their residential municipality. The GWR model revealed important regional variations in the strength of the examined associations.
Area deprivation has only a significant and therefore direct influence in large parts of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. However, the spatially varying strength of the association between demographic variables and hypertension indicates that there also exists an indirect effect of area deprivation on the prevalence of hypertension. It can therefore be expected that persons ageing in deprived areas will be at greater risk of hypertension, irrespective of their individual characteristics. The future planning and allocation of primary healthcare in northeastern Germany would therefore greatly benefit from considering the effect of area deprivation.