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Cross-cultural comparisons: midlife, aging, and menopause

Obermeyer, Carla Makhlouf PhD1; Sievert, Lynnette Leidy PhD2

doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31809ff503
Articles from the Workshop on "Cross-cultural Comparisons of Midlife and Aging"

This summary of the 3-day "Cross-Cultural Comparisons, Midlife, and Aging" workshop introduces 15 papers that examine menopause from biological, cultural, and health perspectives. The workshop was designed to critically examine the conceptual and methodological bases of cross-cultural studies and to make recommendations regarding future research on midlife and aging. This summary first reviews the comparative method with an emphasis on cross-cultural studies of menopause. Then the difference between etic and emic data is introduced. Etic data are collected by standardized instruments according to the interests of the investigator, whereas emic data reflect the concerns of individuals in the community studied. A brief review of cross-country studies concludes that there is a set of "core" menopausal symptoms but that the nuances of those symptoms seem to be culture-specific. The workshop concluded with a unanimous plea for the collection of similar information, both emic and etic data, to improve cross-cultural comparisons. This multidisciplinary collection of papers is an impressive commentary on what has been done in cross-cultural research and a compendium of suggestions for the future.

This summary introduces 15 papers that examine menopause, midlife, and aging from a cross-cultural perspective, reviews the comparative method, differentiates between etic and emic data, and questions whether there are core menopausal symptoms across research sites.

From the 1Department of Population and International Health, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; and the 2Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Amherst, MA.

Received April 26, 2007; revised and accepted April 26, 2007.

Financial support: National Science Foundation (grant SBR-9600721) and National Institutes of Health (grant S 900 000196).

Financial disclosure: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Lynnette Leidy Sievert, PhD, Department of Anthropology, Machmer Hall, UMass Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003-9278. E-mail:

©2007The North American Menopause Society