This stage of menopause could increase the risk of depression

This stage of menopause could increase the risk of depression

A transition period preceding menopause, perimenopause is likely to increase the risk of suffering from depressive symptoms, or even depression. This is what reveals a recent study carried out by British researchers, who wanted to look at the impact of the different stages of this period in a woman's life on mental health disorders.

Menopause is the period in a woman's life when periods stop permanently. It generally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and generally around the age of 50.“, we can read on the official Health Insurance website. Which specifies: “Menopause is a natural phenomenon. It occurs when the ovaries stop their hormonal secretion (estrogen and progesterone) and the formation of an egg each month. It is said that menopause has truly set in when menstruation has been absent for a year.“. If it is a “natural phase in a woman's life”, as Inserm emphasizes, it is not without consequences on the health and daily life of those mainly concerned.

Especially since “menopause is most often preceded by a transition period of 2 to 4 years“, explains the scientific research organization. A stage called perimenopause, during which menstruation can be irregular and which can be the cause of various symptoms (hot flashes, painful chest, irritability) A little-known phenomenon that a team of researchers from University College London (UCL) wanted to look into. Scientists have more broadly attempted to determine whether the different stages of menopause are linked to more or less significant risks of menopause. depression.

Increased risk in perimenopause

To do this, they carried out a meta-analysis of seven studies bringing together 9,141 women from Australia, the United States, China, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. All symptoms were measured using standardized and internationally recognized self-assessment instruments, including the patient health questionnaire called Patient Health Questionnaire PHQ-9, as specified by the researchers themselves. in a press release. At the end of their work, presented in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the scientists say they observed a higher risk of depressive symptoms in women in perimenopause compared to those who were not affected by the symptoms of any stage of menopause or those who were menopausal.

Our findings highlight the importance of recognizing that women at this stage of their lives are more vulnerable to depression. They also highlight the need to provide support and screening to women to help them effectively address their mental health needs.“, explains Dr Roopal Desai, lead author of this research.

This work has limitations to take into account, notably the absence of evidence of a history of depression among the participants. A factor which could prove decisive, as previous studies have shown. Despite everything, Yasmeen Badawy, co-author of the study, concludes: “The combination of data from global studies indicates that these findings cannot be attributed solely to cultural factors or lifestyle changes, which have sometimes been used to explain the depressive symptoms women experience during perimenopause“.

How to alleviate the symptoms?

Menopause, just like perimenopause, can be accompanied by numerous symptoms, called so-called climacteric disorders, which can impact the physical, emotional, social, and – as we have seen – mental well-being of those primarily affected. While they are generally transient, some women may experience them for many years, while they may be discreet, or even non-existent, in others. It is therefore necessary to consult a health professional to take care of them quickly, with treatments adapted to each woman.

According to several scientific studies, specific therapies, or even daily activities, could however help relieve some of these symptoms. Recent work, carried out by the same team of UCL researchers, has shown that mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy could be effective in relieving the so-called non-physical symptoms of menopause.

A study presented at the start of the year, also carried out by scientists from UCL, this time suggested that swimming in cold, or even icy, water could significantly improve the physical and mental symptoms associated with menopause. Work to take into account, even if regular follow-up with a health professional remains essential.