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Using longitudinal profiles to characterize women’s symptoms through midlife: results from a large prospective study

Mishra, Gita D. PhD, CStat, CSci; Dobson, Annette J. PhD

doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3182358d7c
Original Articles

Objective The aims of this study were to identify groups of symptoms experienced by women during midlife and to determine the main profiles or trajectories for each of these symptom groups through the menopausal transition.

Methods The study uses data from the middle-aged cohort of women from a large community-based longitudinal study. Groups or patterns of symptoms are determined using factor analysis. Latent class analysis based on age and age at menopause is used to identify profiles for each of the symptom patterns.

Results Of the four symptom patterns identified, “somatic,” “urogynecological,” and “physical” symptoms have a constant profile through midlife. Vasomotor symptoms vary through menopause: 11% of women have the “early severe” profile of symptoms that begin at premenopause, whereas 29% have the “late severe” profile, with symptoms peaking during postmenopause and persisting more than a decade after menopause. The remaining women with the “moderate” or “mild” profiles report occasional symptoms that tend to peak around menopause.

Conclusions Identifying the profile of vasomotor symptoms could help health professionals to tailor their advice to women going through menopause.

This study looks beyond finding the average prevalence of symptoms experienced by women during midlife. Instead, it uses data from a large community-based cohort study to identify women with similar trajectories or profiles for each symptom group through the menopausal transition.

From the School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Herston, Australia.

Received July 18, 2011; revised and accepted August 31, 2011.

Funding/support: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health is funded by the Australian Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing; G.D.M. has received funding from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Gita D. Mishra, PhD, CStat, CSci, School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Herston, QLD 4006, Australia. E-mail:

©2012The North American Menopause Society