Summary: Women who have experienced physical, sexual or financial abuse face more severe menopausal symptoms and poorer well-being two decades later.
Adversity occurring early in a woman’s life will likely continue to wreak havoc physically and mentally years after these stressors have been eliminated.
A new study suggests that a history of psychosocial stressors (physical or sexual abuse or financial instability) can lead to worsening menopausal symptoms and poorer well-being nearly 2 decades later.
The results of the study are published online today in Menopause.
Menopause is often accompanied by a number of symptoms that affect a woman’s quality of life, including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, depressive symptoms, and sexual dysfunction. However, not all women’s menopause experiences are the same, with some women having much more serious problems.
There are several reasons for the differences. In this new study of nearly 700 women, researchers sought to link a history of psychosocial stressors from childhood to pregnancy with the worst symptoms of menopause.
Although previous studies have attempted to demonstrate the long-term harmful effects of various forms of violence, many have been small in scale or focused more on current violence.
This study specifically focused on the history of stressors as reported at the time of pregnancy and their relationship to a woman’s health in midlife 15 to 20 years later.
Within this study group, a history of physical abuse was reported by 37.3% of participants who also reported more severe menopausal symptoms and poorer overall health, as well as more significant depressive symptoms .
Another 7.7% reported a history of sexual abuse, which was also associated with more severe symptoms during the menopause transition, as well as poorer overall health. However, there was no documented correlation with depressive symptoms.
A history of financial instability was associated with worsening menopausal symptoms, poorer overall health, and greater depressive symptoms.
There was, however, no association between psychosocial stressors and symptoms of generalized anxiety assessed at midlife.
Based on the study results, the researchers concluded that psychosocial stressors were associated with worsening menopausal symptoms and well-being decades after the initial report.
These findings highlight the lasting influence of negative experiences on women’s physical and mental health and underscore the importance of histories of psychosocial stressors when considering the health of women in their midlife.
The results of the study are published in the article “Longitudinal associations of psychosocial stressors with menopausal symptoms and well-being in midlife women”.
“This study provides further evidence to support the link between adversity earlier in life with more severe menopausal symptoms and poorer well-being in middle-aged women.
“Further study is needed to better understand the effect of cumulative exposure to chronic and repeated stress on the health of women in their 40s and beyond,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director of NAMS.
About this Abuse and Menopause Research News
Author: Marie Nance
Contact: Mary Nance – NAMS
Image: Image is in public domain
Original research: Access closed.
“Longitudinal associations of psychosocial stressors with menopausal symptoms and well-being in middle-aged women” by Faleschini, Sabrina et al. Menopause
Longitudinal associations of psychosocial stressors with menopausal symptoms and well-being in middle-aged women
We examined the longitudinal associations of psychosocial stressors with menopausal symptoms and well-being in middle-aged women in a longitudinal cohort.
This study is based on 682 women from Project Viva, a prospective cohort enrolled from 1999 to 2002 during pregnancy (median age = 33.3 years) and followed for almost two decades. During pregnancy, women self-reported psychosocial stressors (history of physical and sexual abuse and financial instability from childhood to current pregnancy). From 2017 to 2021 (median age, 51.6 years), they reported their menopausal symptoms (scale of 0 to 44 points) and their well-being (general health [good/fair/poor vs excellent/very good]generalized anxiety symptoms and depressive symptoms [both—more than minimal levels vs none/minimal]). We performed multivariate and logistic regression models to examine associations of psychosocial stressors with outcome, adjusting for covariates.
A history of physical violence (reported by 37.3%) was associated with worsening of menopausal symptoms in somatovegetative (odds ratio [OR], 0.46 points; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.04-0.87 points) and psychological (OR, 0.52 points; 95% CI, 0.07-0.97 points) and with poorer general health (OR, 1.73; IC 95%, 1.17-2.55) and greater depressive symptoms (OR, 1.74; 95% CI, 1.05-2.87). A history of sexual abuse (7.7%) was associated with worsening menopausal symptoms (OR, 2.81 points; 95% CI, 1.05-4.56) and poorer overall health (OR, 2.04; 95% CI, 1.04-4.03) but not depressive symptoms. A history of financial instability (10.8%) was associated with worsening menopausal symptoms (1.92 points; 0.49 to 3.34), poorer general health (OR, 2.16; 95% CI, 1.24-3.75) and greater depressive symptoms (OR, 2.68; 95% CI, 1.44-4.98). We observed no association between psychosocial stressors and symptoms of generalized anxiety assessed at midlife.
Psychosocial stressors were associated with worsening menopausal symptoms and well-being decades after the initial report.
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