Depression is common during the transition to menopause finds new study

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New research has found that nearly half of women transitioning into menopause can experience depression.

Published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), the new study looked at 485 postmenopausal Turkish women aged between 35 and 78 years and analyzed any depressive symptoms that they had, as well as feelings of anxiety and a fear of death.

The researchers found that 41 percent of the participants experienced some form of depression, making it a common health problem in postmenopausal women.

They also found that the biggest risk factors for depression in postmenopausal women included being a widow or separated from one's spouse, alcohol consumption, any medical history that required continuous medication, physical disability, mental illness and having four or more living children.

The findings are in-line with previous research which has suggested that depression may affect as many as 70 percent of women transitioning into menopause. Although the number of women found to be affected in this study was lower, the researchers say that could be due to the lower average age of the participants (56.3 years) compared to the participants in previous studies.

The team explain that the decrease in hormone production during menopause can make women more susceptible to various psychological problems, including depression, anxiety, irritability, nervousness, sadness, restlessness, memory problems, lack of confidence and concentration, and a loss of libido. Although they didn't find a link between depression and the fear of death, the team add that as women age a fear of death becomes stronger, and depression and anxiety can increase this fear. They add that again, the younger age group of the participants could have affected why they didn't find a relationship between the two in this study.

"The findings of this study involving postmenopausal Turkish women are consistent with existing literature and emphasize the high prevalence of depressive symptoms in midlife women, particularly those with a history of depression or anxiety, chronic health conditions, and psychosocial factors such as major stressful life events. Women and the clinicians who care for them need to be aware that the menopause transition is a period of vulnerability in terms of mood," says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.