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Mental Health of Menopause

As part of our World Mental Health Day Blog series, Dr Belinda Steffan reflects on mental health and its relationship with aspect of health and wellbeing: menopause.


As we think about mental health, it’s important to consider co-morbidities that might influence, exacerbate or change our mental health. October is World Menopause Month, so this is a good opportunity to think about these two aspects of health and well-being together: mental health of menopause.

I research menopause in the workplace, which focuses on the psycho-social aspects of this bio-psycho-social transition that all women will experience at some point. The majority of women will experience peri-menopause symptoms in their 40s and 50s, which is time when mental health can arise as a new challenge, or menopause symptoms can exacerbate an existing mental health condition or experience.

A lot of menopause research focuses on the physical symptoms of menopause – images of women waving fans to cool down a sweating body dominate the media representation of menopause. What is less discussed are the psychological symptoms of menopause: anxiety, depression, anger, rage, irritability, low mood, forgetfulness, brain fog (poor concentration), lowered self-esteem and confidence. These interactions with mental health are less reported, but no less common in experience of women in mid-later life.

Two years ago I wrote a blog on menopause and mind, where I referred to the “menopause cocktail”. In that blog, I advocate for researchers ourselves to be mindful of the often unacknowledged role of these psychological symptoms in reporting on menopause. I would also suggest that all research which engages women in mid-later life, especially studies on mental health, consider menopause as a life course factor. Menopause remains taboo for many women, and as such it is not spoken about as freely as other aspects of health and well-being. As such, mental health researchers might need to be proactive when considering this variable to their own studies.

As the mental health of menopause is under-researched and under-reported compared with physical symptoms, women themselves, organisations who employee them and medical practitioners who treat them all require more awareness and understanding of how menopause symptoms can influence mental health. Menopause is a transitional part of life, as such, the majority of symptoms are temporary. For many women, symptoms might last a matter of months, for others they might last a decade or more and fluctuate significantly in severity throughout this timeframe. Because of the transitory nature of symptoms and how they are experienced as mental health issues or disruptions, managing menopause (one’s own, or supporting others) can be very challenging. But if we, as researchers, are serious about supporting mental health for women in mid-later life, then menopause awareness is worth pursuing.

Menopause research needs more interdisciplinary groups working together to find innovative solutions for supporting mental health of menopause. Menopause is a bio-psycho-social phenomenon that will affect 51% of the population at some point, raising the question of why it remains a taboo in many parts of society and workplaces. Awareness of menopause is currently increasing, as such, we are the generation of change, and I hope that mental health researchers will lead the way in incorporating menopause as part of their exploration of mental health for the current and for future generations.


Senior Research Fellow and Project Manager, University of Edinburgh Business School

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