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Symptom interference with work and relationships during the menopausal transition and early postmenopause: observations from the Seattle Midlife Women's Health Study

Woods, Nancy Fugate PhD, RN, FAAN; Mitchell, Ellen Sullivan PhD

doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e318205bd76
Original Articles

Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the changes in symptom interference during the menopausal transition (MT) stages and early postmenopause (PM), including the effects of age, MT-related factors (estrone, follicle-stimulating hormone, testosterone, MT stages), symptoms (hot flashes, depressed mood, awakening during the night, anxiety, backache, joint pain, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating), health-related factors (perceived health), and stress-related factors (perceived stress, cortisol).

Methods: A subset of Seattle Midlife Women's Health Study participants provided data during the late reproductive, early and late MT stages, or early PM (n = 184), including menstrual calendars for staging the MT; annual health reports completed between 1990 and 2008; morning urine samples assayed for estrone glucuronide, follicle-stimulating hormone, and cortisol; and symptom diary ratings several times each year. Interference was rated in the diary along with symptoms, perceived health, and stress. Multilevel modeling with an R program was used to test the patterns of symptom interference related to age, MT-related factors, symptoms, and health- and stress-related factors, with as many as 5,656 observations. Median age was 47.4 years.

Results: Interference with work was significantly associated with individual covariates such as perceived health, stress, hot flashes, depressed mood, anxiety, difficulty getting to sleep, awakening during the night, early morning awakening, backache, joint pain, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating (for hot flashes, P = 0.01; all others, P < 0.001). A final multivariate model included perceived health, stress, depressed mood, and difficulty concentrating. Interference with relationships was significantly associated with age and individual covariates such as perceived health, estrone, perceived stress, depressed mood, anxiety, sleep symptoms, backache, joint pain, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating (for estrone, P = 0.03; all others, P < 0.001). A final multivariate model included perceived health, stress, depressed mood, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and awakening during the night.

Conclusions: Women's reports of how much the way they felt interfered with work and relationships were influenced by both their perceived health and stress levels. Interference was also influenced by depressed mood and difficulty concentrating, suggesting that these two symptoms may be most important to address, to enhance functioning during the MT and early PM.

Women's experience of specific symptoms, especially difficulty concentrating and depressed mood, is associated with interference with work and relationships during the menopausal transition and early postmenopause, along with perceived health and stress. Menopausal transition itself seems to have little direct relationship to perceived interference with daily living.

From the Department of Biobehavioral Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

Received September 4, 2010; revised and accepted October 25, 2010.

Funding/support: This research was supported in part by grants from the National Institute of Nursing Research (P50-NU02323, P30-NR04001, and R01-NR0414).

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Nancy Fugate Woods, PhD, RN, FAAN, Department of Family and Child Nursing, Box 357266, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-7260. E-mail: nfwoods@u.washington.edu

©2011The North American Menopause Society