Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate and compare symptom experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and understanding of menopause and menopausal therapies in Australian and Laotian women.
Methods: This was a cross-cultural, questionnaire-based study involving 108 women (56 Australian women and 52 Laotian women aged 40-65 y) attending outpatient clinics in Australia and Laos. Descriptive statistics and univariate analysis were conducted using Student’s t test or Mann-Whitney U test, where appropriate.
Results: Psychological symptoms, depression, vasomotor symptoms, and sexual dysfunction were significantly higher in Australian women compared with Laotian women (P < 0.05). Australian women perceived the meaning of menopause as aging (57%), whereas most Laotian women reported not knowing what menopause meant to them (81%). Australian women’s fears about menopause included weight gain (43%), aging (41%), and breast cancer (38%), whereas Laotian women reported not knowing about potential menopausal problems (85%). Exercise (55%), education and awareness (46%), and improving lifestyle (41%) were reported by Australian women as being effective in alleviating menopausal symptoms, with only 21% reporting not knowing what was effective compared with 83% of Laotian women. Many women reported not knowing the risks/benefits of hormonal therapies (50% of Australian women and 87% of Laotian women) and herbal therapies (79% of Australian women and 92% of Laotian women). General practitioners were the most common source of menopause information for both Australians (73%) and Laotians (67%).
Conclusions: Sociocultural factors influence women’s perception of menopause. Psychological symptoms, sexual dysfunction, and vasomotor symptoms are more commonly reported by Australian women than by Laotian women. Women have a limited understanding of the risks/benefits of menopausal therapies, and culturally appropriate education is needed.