Understanding the high depression risk during perimenopause in women

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Researchers from University College London (UCL) have found that women are 40% more likely to experience depression during perimenopause compared to those who are not experiencing menopausal symptoms.

This significant finding highlights the mental health challenges women face during this transitional period.

The study, which appeared in the Journal of Affective Disorders, analyzed data from seven different studies involving 9,141 women from various countries including Australia, the U.S., China, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

The research aimed to examine whether different stages of menopause, such as perimenopause, were linked to an increased risk of depression.

Perimenopause is the phase that typically occurs three to five years before a woman reaches menopause. During this time, women experience fluctuations in hormones like estrogen and progesterone.

These changes can lead to mood swings, irregular menstrual cycles, and other symptoms such as an increase in depressive feelings.

The findings revealed that women in the perimenopausal stage were significantly more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms or be diagnosed with depression than those who were premenopausal.

Interestingly, the study found no notable increase in depression risk among post-menopausal women compared to their premenopausal counterparts.

To measure symptoms, the research utilized well-known self-report tools like the Patient Health Questionnaire PHQ-9, which assesses various factors including interest in activities, sleep issues, and low mood.

Dr. Roopal Desai, a senior author of the study and a member of UCL’s Psychology & Language Sciences department, emphasized the significance of these findings.

He stated, “This study confirms that perimenopausal women are considerably more vulnerable to depression. Recognizing this vulnerability is crucial for providing proper support and screening to address the mental health needs of women during this stage of life.”

The research underscores the necessity for increased awareness and support for women dealing with menopausal symptoms.

According to Professor Aimee Spector, another author of the study, “Women endure years of menopausal symptoms that can significantly affect their well-being and quality of life. It’s vital to ensure they receive the necessary medical, workplace, and home support.”

Lead author Yasmeen Badawy, a UCL Masters student, pointed out that the findings were consistent across different cultural and lifestyle backgrounds, indicating that the increased depression risk during perimenopause cannot simply be explained by these factors alone.

While the study accounted for various factors that could influence the results, it did not include data on whether the participants had a history of depression, which has been shown to be relevant in earlier studies.

Additionally, the researchers did not compare symptoms between perimenopausal and post-menopausal women, marking a limitation in the scope of the analysis.

This study is part of ongoing research at UCL that also explores effective treatments for non-physical symptoms of menopause, including mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy.

The ongoing work aims to better understand and address the complex challenges women face during the menopause transition, ensuring they receive the support needed to maintain their mental health and overall quality of life.

If you care about depression, please read studies that vegetarian diet may increase your depression risk, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

For more information about health, please see recent studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and these antioxidants could help reduce the risk of dementia.

The study finds can be found in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

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