Results – 41 papers representing 19 observational cohort studies and 17 clinical trial cohorts, comprising 46 separate analyses were identified. Long term variability in blood pressure was studied in 24 papers, mid-term in four, and short-term in 15 (two studied both long term and short term variability). Results from 23 analyses were excluded from main analyses owing to high risks of confounding. Increased long term variability in systolic blood pressure was associated with risk of all cause mortality (hazard ratio 1.15, 95% confidence interval 1.09 to 1.22), cardiovascular disease mortality (1.18, 1.09 to 1.28), cardiovascular disease events (1.18, 1.07 to 1.30), coronary heart disease (1.10, 1.04 to 1.16), and stroke (1.15, 1.04 to 1.27). Increased mid-term and short term variability in daytime systolic blood pressure were also associated with all cause mortality (1.15, 1.06 to 1.26 and 1.10, 1.04 to 1.16, respectively).
Conclusions – Long term variability in blood pressure is associated with cardiovascular and mortality outcomes, over and above the effect of mean blood pressure. Associations are similar in magnitude to those of cholesterol measures with cardiovascular disease. Limited data for mid-term and short term variability showed similar associations. Future work should focus on the clinical implications of assessment of variability in blood pressure and avoid the common confounding pitfalls observed to date.