The relationship between negative events, neighbourhood characteristics, and systolic blood pressure in developing countries is not well-documented, particularly using longitudinal data. To explore this relationship, we analysed panel data from the first three waves of the South African National Income Dynamics Study using a correlated random effects model adjusted for confounding risk factors. Our sample comprised of 15,631 respondents in 2008, 14,443 respondents in 2010/2011, and 14,418 respondents in 2012, all aged above 15 years. The prevalence of at least one negative household event across the three waves was approximately 30%. In any of the three waves, the adjusted prevalence of hypertension was 23.84%. This share was 21.75% in 2008 (95% CI 18.06–25.44), 23.16% in 2010/11 (95% CI 19.18–27.14), and 18.39% in 2012 (95% CI 16.03–20.75). In our adjusted correlated random effects model, we found that systolic blood pressure was significantly higher among respondents from households that reported death of a household member (0.85?mmHg; p?=? 0.02) and a reduction in grant income and remittances (2.14?mm?Hg; p?=?0.01). We also found no significant association between systolic blood pressure and neighbourhood income level. In a country with social and economic challenges, our results indicate that grief and negative financial events are adversely associated with blood pressure, which may explain in part the significant burden of hypertension in low- and middle-income countries.