Women around the world go through the same hormonal changes before and during menopause and experience the same symptoms. But a study has found that cultural differences appear to shape how people experience the change of life.
Menopause generally occurs in women between the times they are 45 and 55. It marks the time they stop menstruating and their ovaries start producing less of the female hormones progesterone and estrogen. Regional differences in diet, exercise, and attitudes toward getting older may influence how women experience menopause. Some cultures revere age and older women more than others, and researchers decided to see if there were differences in how the changes of menopause were experienced in different cultures.
Researchers surveyed more than 8,000 older men and women about how menopause affected their relationships and their sex lives. The people surveyed lived in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, France, and Italy. The main goal of the survey had been to look at the effect of vaginal dryness, a common change during menopause, but also asked about hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, and weight gain.
The study found that symptoms were more prevalent in women from the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada and less in Sweden and Italy. Eight-fivepercent of the Canadian women said that vaginal dryness was a concern, but only 65% of Italian women did so. Women from the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, the same countries where symptoms were more prevalent, were more likely to say they found the impact of menopause to be worse than expected. Women in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were more like to say that menopause was better than they expected.
The impact of postmenopausal symptoms on relationships is greater in women from countries where symptoms are more prevalent," the study concluded. "Postmenopausal women and male partners of postmenopausal women may benefit from greater education about menopause and open discussions with their healthcare provider."
The study was published in the journal Menopause.