Health Trends

Abuse, financial instability associated with worse menopausal symptoms, health in midlife

September 16, 2022

2 min read

Faleschini reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

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Women with a history of abuse or financial instability were more likely to have worse menopausal symptoms and overall well-being, according to data published in Menopause.

Previous studies on the long-term impact of abuse have been small or limited to current abuse, according to a press release from NAMS. The most recent study adds to what is known about the impact of abuse by focusing “on the history of stressors as reported at the time of pregnancy and their connection with a woman’s health during midlife 15 to 20 years later.”

Data derived from Faleschini S, et al. Menopause. 2022;doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000002056.
Data derived from Faleschini S, et al. Menopause. 2022;doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000002056.

Psychosocial stressors, midlife symptoms

Sabrina Faleschini, PhD, who was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School in Boston at the time of the study, and colleagues included 682 women who had been recruited during pregnancy between 1999 and 2002 for Project Viva, a prospective cohort study of mothers and their children with ongoing follow-up. These women reported past and recent history of physical and sexual abuse and financial instability at study visits during pregnancy.

At study visits between 2017 and 2021, women who were postmenopausal or aged 45 years or older self-reported menopausal symptoms using the Menopause Rating Scale (MRS). The MRS uses a cumulative 44 points to indicate the severity of menopause-related somatovegetative symptoms, such as hot flashes, heart discomfort, sleeping disorders and joint and muscle complaints; psychological symptoms; and urogenital symptoms.

Additionally, women self-reported their general health; their anxiety symptoms through the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7); and their depressive symptoms through the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9).

Midlife impact of abuse, financial struggles

Overall, 37.3% of women reported physical abuse, 7.7% reported sexual abuse and 10.8% reported financial instability.

Compared with women reporting no psychosocial exposures, women who reported physical abuse also reported worse somatovegetative (OR = 0.46 points; 95% CI, 0.04-0.87) and psychological menopause symptoms (OR = 0.52 points; 95% CI, 0.07-0.97), as well as worse overall health (OR = 1.73; 95% CI, 1.17-2.55) and worse depressive symptoms (OR = 1.74; 95% CI, 1.05-2.87).

Sexual abuse was also associated with worse general 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) compared with no exposure to psychosocial stressors. However, sexual abuse was not associated with depressive symptoms.

Similarly, women who reported financial instability had worse general menopausal symptoms (OR = 1.92 points; 95% CI, 0.49-3.34), worse overall health (OR = 2.16; 95% CI, 1.24-3.75) and worse depressive symptoms (OR = 2.68; 95% CI, 1.44-4.98) compared with women who reported no abuse or financial instability.

For all psychosocial stressors assessed, Faleschini and colleagues found no correlation with general anxiety symptoms at midlife.

“These results highlight the long-lasting influence of adverse experiences on women’s physical and mental health and emphasize the importance of past history of psychosocial stressors when considering the health of women in midlife,” the researchers wrote.


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