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  • Posted May 1, 2024

Years Prior to Menopause Are Danger Zone for Depression

Women approaching menopause appear to be at higher risk of depression, a new review indicates.

Women in the transition period prior to menopause are 40% more likely to experience depression than premenopausal women, according to pooled data from seven studies involving more than 9,100 women around the world.

The results show that women heading into menopause "are significantly more likely to experience depression than either before or after this stage,"said senior researcher Dr. Roopal Desai, a clinical fellow in psychology with University College London.

"Our findings emphasize the importance of acknowledging that women in this life stage are more vulnerable to experiencing depression,"Desai added in a university news release. "It also underlines the need to provide support and screening for women to help address their mental health needs effectively." 

This transition period, called perimenopause, usually occurs three to five years before the onset of menopause, researchers said in background notes.

During this transition, the ovaries begin producing fewer female hormones, and fluctuating hormone levels can cause mood changes along with irregular menstrual cycles and other symptoms, researchers said.

This stage of menopause continues until a year after a woman's last period, and can often last between four and eight years overall, researchers said.

The analysis included studies involving women from the United States, Australia, China, the Netherlands and Switzerland, researchers said. Menopause symptoms were assessed using standardized questionnaires.

These data, published April 30 in the Journal of Affective Disorders, were drawn from around the globe and show that women's struggles with menopause are universal, the researchers said.

"These findings cannot be attributed to cultural factors or lifestyle changes alone, which have been sometimes used to explain the depressive symptoms that women experience during perimenopause,"said lead researcher Yasmeen Badawy, a master's student at University College London.

Prior research has indicated that therapy can be an effective treatment for the emotional symptoms that accompany menopause, the team noted.

"Women spend years of their lives dealing with menopausal symptoms that can have a huge impact on their well-being and quality of life,"said researcher Aimee Spector, a professor of clinical psychology of aging with University College London.

"Our findings show just how significantly the mental health of perimenopausal women can suffer during this time,"Spector noted. "We need greater awareness and support to ensure they receive appropriate help and care both medically, in the workplace and at home."

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more about perimenopause.

SOURCE: University College London, news release, April 30, 2024

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