Hildegard Strahl: Pressure of life – pressure of blood: local illness experiences related to hypertension in a lower middle class society in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Albert-Ludwigs- Universtität, Freiburg i. Br., Institute of Social Anthropology, co-supervised by Prof Brigit Obrist, Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Basel (2006)

Chronic disease, such as hypertension, is showing a growing health impact in low-income countries like Tanzania. Focusing on the local idioms ‘BP’ or ‘presha’ commonly used for blood pressure in Dar es Salaam, the dissertation examined how a lower middleclass society of the metropolis interprets, perceives and experiences the relatively new health problem. The study shows that people use the local expressions to refer to an illness that relates to, but is not identical with the biomedical concept of hypertension. Apart from biomedical aspects of the illness, people understand the illness mainly as the result of a harsh life in the city. The somatic and the social sides of the illness are integral parts of the local illness understanding and are not distinguished as two different illness concepts. This double sidedness of the illness results in contradictions and ambivalences in people’s illness explanations and is a main factor of inadequate response in biomedical health advice.