Can Early Menopause Lead to Depression Later in Life?

By Mikael Häggström (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Do women who go into menopause early have an increased risk of depression? According to information from a new study, women experiencing premature menopause can have an increased risk of depression later on in life.

The Study

If more studies confirm the findings of this new study, doctors may attempt to identify the women who are most likely to need psychiatric or hormonal treatment after their menstrual cycle ends.
The study was published in the January 6, 2016 edition of the JAMA Psychiatry journal. Researchers studied the results of 14 other studies on almost 68,000 women.

Those women who started menopause when they were 40 and older had a lowered risk of depression later in life than those who went through menopause at an earlier age.

Women who are older when they go through menopause and have a longer reproductive life have greater exposure to estrogen, the author stated.

The finding of the study suggest, “a potentially protective effect of increasing duration of exposure to [natural] estrogens as assessed by age at menopause, as well as by the duration of the reproductive period,” wrote Dr. Eleni Th Petridou of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece.

The researchers concluded, “These findings could have a significant clinical effect by allowing for the identification of a group of women at higher risk for depression who may benefit from psychiatric monitoring or estrogen-based therapies.”

Menopause Information

Menopause is defined as happening 12 months after a woman’s last menstrual cycle and it marks the permanent ending of her menstrual periods. Most often women go through menopause in their 40s or 50s, with the average age being 51 in the United States.

While menopause is considered a natural biological process, a woman can remain healthy, vital and sexual. Some women are relieved by going through menopause because they don’t have to worry about getting pregnant anymore.

Menopause can bring on hot flashes, sleep disruption, lower energy levels, and emotional instability. While other women can also experience anxiety and feelings of loss.

It’s important to know that while these symptoms can be bothersome and inconvenient for some women, there are treatment options such as hormone replacement therapy and lifestyle adjustments that can make it more bearable.

Fortunately, for many women the signs and symptoms of menopause are bearable and temporary. However, for others the transition can be problematic. Taking these steps can help to reduce the symptoms of menopause and make the process easier for a woman to deal with.

When feeling anxious or stressed out, practicing relaxation techniques can bring relief. Other things that are important as a woman goes through menopause is getting enough rest, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly. If you feel more intervention is needed, speaking to your doctor can be very helpful.

Conclusion to the Study:

While this study found a clear association between early menopause and depression, it didn’t prove a cause and effect. More study is needed in order to make improvements to diagnosing and treating depression in menopausal women.


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