A recent article by the New York Times highlights the staggering cost of menopause for women in the workforce, citing a study by the Mayo Clinic published recently. The study looked at how hot flashes, fatigue, brain fog, mood swings and the many symptoms associated with menopause affect women in the workplace.
Menopause is a natural biological process that happens a year after a woman stops menstruating. However, women can suffer with menopause symptoms way before that, sometimes 2 to 12 years before they actually reach menopause (referred to as the perimenopause phase). While it is a normal phase of life, the transition can be challenging for many women.
According to the study conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, over 4,000 participants from four different sites in the United States were surveyed. The study found that approximately 15% of the participants reported missing work or reducing their working hours due to menopause-related symptoms. Those with the most severe symptoms were 16 times more likely to experience such outcomes compared to those with the least severe symptoms. Moreover, just over 1% of the participants reported that their symptoms had become so debilitating that they either left their jobs or were laid off within the preceding six months.
Their research also showed that menopause symptoms can have a greater effect on Black and Latina working women. This study highlights the myriad and complex ways that menopause impacts the physical, social, and economic lives of women as they age.
Despite the profound impact of menopause on women in the workforce, the topic is still often considered taboo and not openly discussed. This silence can create a culture of shame and isolation for women who are experiencing menopause-related symptoms, which can make it difficult for them to seek help or support.
The topic of women’s health is already devalued in our society. Historically, medical research has focused more on men than women. Studies have shown that gender bias exists in healthcare, with doctors more likely to dismiss women’s pain or symptoms as psychological or emotional rather than physical. This can lead to underdiagnosis or mistreatment of health conditions.
So studies such as the Mayo Clinic are important to continue to shed light on what women have been experiencing for a long time.
There definitely needs to be a paradigm shift when it comes to women and aging. In Western cultures, there is a pervasive societal pressure to look young and attractive, and this often leads to the stigmatization of aging. Older women are often portrayed as less desirable, less capable, and less valuable than younger women in Western media and advertising.
We have the power to change how women experience midlife especially if they are suffering from very real symptoms that keep them from enjoying their life.
We can choose to view a woman’s midlife through a different lens, as a time of strengthening of their feminine power. Given the right conditions, support, and options for symptom relief and treatment, a woman’s midlife can be a time of great change, a time to become more of who you want to be, and an opportunity for improved health and wellness.