Women who suffer the unpleasant and sometimes debilitating symptoms of menopause are more likely to miss days at work, a new Dutch study finds.
"If you have really bad menopausal symptoms,
which could be insomnia, night sweats, mood swings, irritability, you may be calling
into work sick," says Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician-gynecologist with
Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Menopause, which typically occurs after age
45, marks the end of a woman's periods, when the ovaries stop producing
the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Although previous studies have looked at work
productivity, this is the first to correlate menopausal symptoms with a
broader concept known as "work ability." Work ability tries to take
into account how well a person's abilities correlate with job demands
while also attempting to predict future job performance, including how
often a person will miss work.
The researchers, from Nij Smellinghe Hospital
in Drachten, the Netherlands, enlisted more than 200 women, aged 44
through 60, who worked at the hospital or a nearby home-care
Women filled out a web-based questionnaire
asking about 21 symptoms potentially related to menopause, such as
anxiety, depression, hot flashes and sexual dysfunction.
Participants also provided information on how
often they called in sick, how they rated their current work ability
vs. past ability and any diagnoses made by a physician.
Women who reported more menopausal symptoms
were more likely to rate themselves lower on the work ability index,
including reporting more days missed from work.
The findings, published in the March issue of the journal Menopause, probably won't surprise millions of mid-life women, their families and health-care providers.
"What they're trying to show intuitively
probably a lot of people know," says Dr. Brooke Leath, a staff physician
in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Scott & White in
Round Rock, Texas.
However, the physical symptoms most often
associated with menopause -- hot flashes and night sweats -- did not
affect work ability or sick days for women in this study.
"The majority of the questionnaire items
associated with adverse effects on the work scale are pretty general,
and I don't believe are truly specific for menopause," said Dr. Jan
Shifren, director of the Vincent Menopause Program at Massachusetts
General Hospital in Boston.
They included depression and anxiety, as well
as "somatic" symptoms such as headaches, muscle and joint pain and
dizziness. Somatic symptoms are physical manifestations of mental states
such as anxiety...read more