A recent extensive study focused on menopause symptoms in Australian women has unveiled a concerning trend. The report suggests that there is a significant push to exaggerate the severity of menopause symptoms, possibly driven by commercial interests to steer women towards purchasing various products claiming to alleviate these symptoms.
This study, conducted in collaboration with the Australasian Menopause Society, the Women’s Health Research Program at Monash University, and Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, is the first of its kind, providing insights from a large, nationally representative survey of Australian women regarding their menopausal experiences.
Symptom Severity vs. Workplace Impact
While the study found that the severity of menopause symptoms experienced by women generally aligns with reports found in medical literature, it also found that the proportion of Australian women missing workdays or taking extended leaves due to these symptoms is lower than some previous estimates suggested.
It is essential to underscore that the report acknowledges that some women genuinely need therapeutic interventions to manage their menopausal symptoms. However, it highlights the fact that media and public discussions surrounding menopause often lack a robust scientific basis, leading to an exaggeration of symptom severity, frequency, and impact.
The Consequences of Exaggerated Reports and ‘Catastrophising’ Menopause
The report draws attention to a specific instance where media widely covered a study that claimed “nearly one million” women in the UK left their jobs due to a lack of employer support for menopause symptoms. It was later revealed that the study’s methodology was flawed as it was based on a non-representative sample of women, which was then extrapolated to the entire UK population. Furthermore, the study combined various reasons for leaving the workforce, including pregnancy and fertility issues, with menopause symptoms.
The report advises against ‘catastrophising’ menopause in public discussions and advertising, as such an approach could unintentionally undermine women’s resilience and stigmatize them as they approach midlife.
Insights from the CEO of Jean Hailes
Dr. Sarah White, the CEO of Jean Hailes, emphasized the increasing focus on women affected by menopause symptoms that lead to job departures or relationship and emotional challenges. She pointed out that previous studies often relied on convenience sampling, where women who had already self-identified as having menopause-related issues were asked about their experiences.
Dr. White highlighted the significance of this recent survey, which takes a random sample of women from across Australia to understand their experiences. The results indicate that only a small but significant proportion of women struggle with menopause, while the majority experience minor or manageable symptoms. Some women have no symptoms at all.
Key Findings from the Report
The report also provides some key statistics:
8.7% of Australian women have reached menopause due to surgery or treatment.
34% of Australian women have reached menopause naturally.
In conclusion, this study sheds light on the ‘menopause market’ and the commercial incentives that may drive the exaggeration of menopause symptoms. It emphasizes the importance of evidence-based discussions and advertising to support women’s well-being and prevent unnecessary concerns. The findings reveal that the majority of women experience menopause as a manageable phase in their lives.