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Cross-cultural study: experience, understanding of menopause, and related therapies in Australian and Laotian women

Sayakhot, Padaphet MHS, MCE, MBBS1,2,3; Vincent, Amanda PhD, MBBS1,2,4; Teede, Helena PhD, MBBS1,2,5

Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society: December 2012 - Volume 19 - Issue 12 - p 1300–1308
doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31825fd14e
Original Articles

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.

From the 1School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia; 2Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, Clayton, Victoria, Australia; 3Gynecology and Obstetrics Department, Monash Medical Center, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia; and 4Menopause Unit and 5Diabetes Unit, Monash Medical Center, Southern Health, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.

Received October 25, 2011; revised and accepted April 12, 2012.

Funding/support: This study was supported by a grant from the Victoria Cancer Agency Early Career Bench and Bedside Collaboration Awards in 2009. Professor Helena Teede is a National Health and Medical Research Council research fellowship holder, and Padaphet Sayakhot is a Monash Graduate Scholarship holder.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Helena Teede, PhD, MBBS, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Monash Medical Center, Locked Bag 29, Clayton Road, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia. E-mail:

©2012The North American Menopause Society