Menopause symptoms were the topic of a recently release data analysis that parsed the data obtained from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) and the findings suggest new indicators for how long hot flashes and night sweats might persist across different demographic groups. Hot flashes and night sweats are a type of vasomotor symptom (VMS) and are the classic menopause symptoms. Various factors have been previously associated with the persistence and severity of VMS, and the data analysis has attempted to determine what associations might exist, if any.
Since SWAN was one of the largest, longest, and most diverse studies of its kind, it provided an ample source of data that could be used for the study.
Broadly speaking, the researchers identified four distinct VMS patterns among the study participants. Early onset, late onset, onset early with high frequency (“high”), and persistently low frequency (“low”).
Among women with early onset VMS symptoms, there were more likely to be:
- Anxiety symptoms or depression
- Poorer health
- Older age at menopause
Among the late onset VMS group:
- Lower BMI
- Current smokers
The “high” VMS group was characterized primarily by:
- Lower education level
- More alcohol use
- Poorer health
- Depression and anxiety symptoms
- More likely to be black, less likely to be Chinese
The “low” VMS group was more likely to be:
The pattern of hormone estradiol levels of the menopause transition was also measured and found to have a significant association with each group’s VMS patterns. It appeared that, especially for the early onset and high groups, low estradiol was tied to symptom appearances. When follicle-stimulating hormone levels (FSC) was measured instead, similar associations were found. However there was less distinction between different VMS groups than with estradiol.
What the findings suggest is that menopause symptoms, specifically VMS symptoms like night sweats or hot flashes, have a strong relationship to various personal, social, and ethnic factors. Keeping these factors in mind may allow VMS treatments to be better tailored by taking into account various psychosocial elements alongside medical ones.
“Menopause symptoms and relationship to demographic and psychosocial factors,” Medical Xpress web site, July 13, 2016; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-07-menopause-symptoms-relationship-demographic-psychosocial.html, last accessed July 14, 2016.