For many women – and some transgender men and non-binary individuals, menopause marks a significant life stage, usually occurring after midlife.
While the end of menstrual cycles is a common marker, experiences and symptoms vary widely.
While menopause doesn’t in itself increase the risk of chronic illnesses, it can be a time to reassess your health looking forward in the long-term.
Australian researchers have reviewed the available evidence on menopause to make a number of recommendations, including shifting its definition and focus on areas of new research.
After reviewing more than 200 scientific papers on menopause, the researchers found that the common symptoms – from hot flashes to sleep troubles and mood changes – can start much earlier than changes to your periods and can also be influenced by ethnic background.
In some countries, like Bangladesh, joint pain is a more commonly reported symptom than hot flashes. Other studies suggest that African-American women face longer-lasting hot flashes compared to European women. Mood swings and sleep disturbances are common but can be influenced by external factors like stress. Factors like smoking, obesity, and socioeconomic status can also make symptoms more likely.
Research across several countries substantiates that the severity of these menopausal symptoms links to decreased performance at work. But job conditions, including stable employment, support from supervisors, and an accommodating work environment, can mitigate these challenges, according to the study authors. Menopausal women who face economic hardship or mental health issues are particularly vulnerable to difficulties at work during that stage of their lives.
The authors propose that menopause be defined as the final cessation of ovarian function as opposed to the end of menstruation. They argue that would include people without regular periods, such as those who used certain types of contraception like IUDs or have had hysterectomies.