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Cross-cultural analysis of determinants of hot flashes and night sweats: Latin-American immigrants to Madrid and their Spanish neighbors

Pérez-Alcalá, Irene MA; Sievert, Lynnette Leidy PhD; Obermeyer, Carla Makhlouf DSc; Reher, David Sven PhD

doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e3182897fe8
Original Study

Objective This study applies a biocultural perspective to better understand the determinants of hot flashes and night sweats within immigrant and local populations in Madrid, Spain.

Methods A combined sample of 575 women from Madrid, aged 45 to 55 years, was drawn from two studies. The Spanish sample (n = 274) participated in The Decisions At Menopause Study in 2000-2002. The Latin-American sample (n = 301) was drawn from immigrants to Madrid in 2010-2011. χ2 analyses and logistic regression models were carried out on the combined sample, controlling for origin of provenance.

Results Forty-four percent of women reported hot flashes, 36% reported night sweats, and 26% reported both symptoms. Compared with Spanish women, Latin-American women were less likely to report hot flashes (odds ratio, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.4-0.9), after demographic variables and menopause status were controlled for. The same was not found for night sweats and for both symptoms combined. Determinants of hot flashes differed from determinants of night sweats.

Conclusions Because their determinants differ, hot flashes and night sweats should be queried and analyzed separately. Latin-American women are less likely to report hot flashes, but not night sweats or both symptoms combined. More research is needed to clarify the differences in reported hot flashes, as the lesser reporting among immigrants could have been a cultural phenomenon rather than a biological phenomenon.

From the 1Department of Sociology II (Human Ecology and Population Studies), Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain; 2Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA; and 3Faculty of Health Sciences, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.

Received November 29, 2012; revised and accepted January 23, 2013.

Funding/support: This Latin-American sample project was supported by a Formación de Personal Investigador grant (BES-2009-027506) from the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación Español associated with the CSO2008-03616 project. The Decisions At Menopause Study project was supported by a National Institutes of Health grant (5R01 AG17578-03; “Therapeutic Decisions at Menopause”).

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Irene Pérez-Alcalá, MA, Departamento de Sociología II (Ecología Humana y Población), Facultad de CC PP y Sociología, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Pozuelo de Alarcón 28223, Madrid, Spain. E-mail:

© 2013 by The North American Menopause Society.