Is there a menopausal syndrome? Menopausal status and symptoms across racial/ethnic groups
Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine
African Americans; Asian Americans; Attitude to Health; Cross-Cultural Comparison; Cross-Sectional Studies; European Continental Ancestry Group; data; Factor Analysis, Statistical; Female; Health Status; Hispanic Americans; Humans; Logistic Models; Menopause; Middle Aged; Psychophysiologic Disorders; Questionnaires; Socioeconomic Factors; United States; Women; Women's Health
Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences | Women's Studies
In recent years, research on menopausal symptomalogy has focused on identifying symptom groupings experienced by women as they progress from premenopausal to postmenopausal status. However, most of these studies have been conducted among Caucasian women from western cultures. This leaves open the question of whether the findings from these studies can be extended to women of other racial/ethnic groups or cultures. Furthermore, many of the previous studies have been conducted on relatively small samples. This paper addresses the diversity of the menopause experience by comparing symptom reporting in a large cross-sectional survey of women aged 40-55 years among racial/ethnic groups of women in the United States (Caucasian, African-American, Chinese, Japanese, and Hispanic). Evaluation of the extent to which symptoms group together and consistently relate to menopausal status across these five samples provides evidence for or against a universal menopausal syndrome. The specific research questions addressed in this paper are: (1) How does the factor structure of symptoms among mid-aged women compare across racial/ethnic groups? (2) Is symptom reporting related to race/ethnicity or menopausal status? and (3) Does the relation between menopausal status and symptoms vary across racial/ethnic groups? Analyses are based on 14,906 women who participated in the multi-ethnic, multi-race, multi-site study of mid-aged women called the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN). Study participants completed a 15-min telephone or in-person interview that contained questions on a variety of health-related topics. Items of interest for these analyses include symptoms, menstrual history (to assess menopausal status), health status, and sociodemographics. Factor analysis results showed that across all five racial/ethnic groups, two consistent factors emerged; one consisting of clearly menopausal symptoms -- hot flashes and night sweats -- and the other consisting of psychological and psychosomatic symptoms. Results of regression analyses showed racial/ethnic differences in symptom reporting, as well as differences by menopausal status. Controlling for age, education, health, and economic strain, Caucasian women reported significantly more psychosomatic symptoms than other racial/ethnic groups. African-American women reported significantly more vasomotor symptoms. Perimenopausal women, hormone users, and women who had a surgical menopause reported significantly more vasomotor symptoms. All of these groups, plus postmenopausal women, reported significantly more vasomotor symptoms than premenopausal women. The pattern of results argues against a universal menopausal syndrome consisting of a variety of vasomotor and psychological symptoms.
Rights and Permissions
Citation: Soc Sci Med. 2001 Feb;52(3):345-56.