A study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry on Jan. 6 showed that early menopause could increase the risk of depression later on.
Researchers are hopeful that more studies could confirm their findings, which could help doctors identify women who are most likely to require hormonal or psychiatric therapy following the end of their menstruations, noted Wed MD on their article on Jan. 6.
"Our analysis showed that overall, increasing age at menopause by 2 years decreases the postmenopausal risk by 2% (per 2-year increment," noted lead author of the study Dr. Eleni Th Petridou of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, in Greece. "Considering that age at menopause may differ among women up to 20 years, the cumulative protective effect becomes quite sizeable."
To come up with their conclusion, the researchers evaluated the results of 14 studies, which involved nearly 68,000 older women as their subjects.
They have found that women whose menopause started at the age of 40 and older and have a longer reproductive life had a lower chance of depression later in their lives, attributed to more estrogen exposure, as compared to those who enter menopausal stage early.
According to Web MD on their article on estrogen and women's emotions, the hormone estrogen increases serotonin and serotonin receptors in the brain, which act as mood stabilizers, as well as endorphins, also known as the brain's "feel-good" chemicals.
The results suggest "a potentially protective effect of increasing duration of exposure to [natural] estrogens as assessed by age at menopause, as well as by the duration of the reproductive period," noted the researchers.
"These findings could have a significant clinical effect by allowing for the identification of a group of women at higher risk for depression who may benefit from psychiatric monitoring or estrogen-based therapies," concluded the researchers.