Summary: Women who have been physically, sexually, or financially abused experience worse menopausal symptoms and worse well-being two decades later.
Adversities that occur early in a woman’s life are likely to continue to take a physical and mental toll years after these stressors have been removed.
A new study suggests that a history of psychosocial stressors (physical or sexual abuse or financial instability) can lead to worse menopausal symptoms and poor well-being after nearly two decades.
The results of the study are published online today at menopause.
Menopause is often accompanied by a number of symptoms that negatively affect a woman’s quality of life, including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, depressive symptoms, and impotence. However, not all women’s menopause experiences are the same, with some women having more serious problems.
There are many reasons for the differences. In this most recent study of nearly 700 women, researchers sought to correlate a history of psychosocial stress from childhood through pregnancy with the worst symptoms of menopause.
Although previous studies have attempted to demonstrate the long-term negative effects of various forms of abuse, many of them have been small or more focused on current abuse.
This study focused specifically on the history of stressors as reported at the time of pregnancy and its relationship to women’s health during midlife after 15 to 20 years.
Within this study group, a history of physical abuse was reported by 37.3% of the participants who also reported worse menopausal symptoms and worse general health, as well as greater depressive symptoms.
7.7% reported a history of sexual abuse, which was also associated with worse symptoms during menopause, as well as poor general health. However, there was no documented association with depressive symptoms.
A history of financial instability was associated with worse menopausal symptoms, worse general health, and greater depressive symptoms.
However, there was no association between psychosocial stressors and general anxiety symptoms assessed in middle age.
Based on the study findings, the researchers concluded that psychosocial stressors were associated with worse menopausal symptoms and good health decades after the initial report.
These findings highlight the long-term impact of negative experiences on women’s physical and mental health and underscore the importance of past history of psychosocial stress when considering the health of middle-aged women.
The results of the study were published in the article “Longitudinal correlates of psychosocial stress with menopausal symptoms and well-being among middle-aged women.”
This study provides additional evidence to support the link between adversity early in life with worse menopausal symptoms and poorer well-being in middle-aged women.
“Additional study is needed to understand the impact of cumulative exposure to chronic and recurrent stressors on the health of women in middle age and beyond,” says NAMS Medical Director Stephanie Faubion.
About this abuse and research news menopause
author: Marie Nance
Contact: Marie Nance – NAMS
picture: The image is in the public domain
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“Longitudinal associations of psychosocial stress with menopausal symptoms and well-being among middle-aged womenWritten by Valescini, Sabrina et al. menopause
Longitudinal associations of psychosocial stress with menopausal symptoms and well-being among middle-aged women
We examined the longitudinal associations of psychosocial stress with menopausal symptoms and well-being of middle-aged women in a longitudinal cohort.
This study is based on 682 women from Project Viva, a prospective cohort enrolled in 1999 to 2002 during pregnancy (mean age = 33.3 years) and followed for approximately two decades. During pregnancy, women reported psychosocial stressors (a history of physical and sexual abuse and financial instability, from childhood to the current pregnancy). In 2017 to 2021 (mean age, 51.6 years), they reported their menopausal symptoms (0-44 point scale) and their well-being (general health). [good/fair/poor vs excellent/very good]Symptoms of general anxiety and symptoms of depression [both—more than minimal levels vs none/minimal]). We performed multivariate and logistic regression models to examine associations of psychosocial stress with outcomes, and adjustment for covariates.
A history of physical abuse (reported by 37.3%) was associated with worse menopausal symptoms in vegans (odds ratio). [OR], 0.46 points; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.04-0.87 points) and psychiatric (OR, 0.52 points; 95% CI, 0.07-0.97 points) with worse general health (OR, 1.73; 95% CI, 1.17-2.55) and greater depressive symptoms (OR, 1.74; 95% CI , 1.05-2.87). A history of sexual assault (7.7%) was associated with worse menopausal symptoms (OR, 2.81 points; 95% CI, 1.05-4.56) and worse general health (OR, 2.04; 95% CI, 1.04-4.03) but not with depressive symptoms. A history of financial instability (10.8%) was associated with worse menopausal symptoms (1.92 points; 0.49 to 3.34), worse 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 did not observe any association between psychological stressors and general anxiety symptoms assessed in middle age.
Psychosocial stressors were associated with worse menopausal symptoms and well-being decades after the initial report.