Positive Changes in the Way Women Experience Menopause, University of Texas at Austin Multi-Ethnic Study Finds

July 27, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — White women are becoming more optimistic about menopause, with many seeing it as an opportunity to rethink their lives and redefine themselves, a new University of Texas at Austin national study shows.

This is just one of the positive changes in the way women across different ethnic groups are experiencing the change of life, the School of Nursing research found. The study also found women are getting support from their family and friends and some even mentioned relief and benefits when going through menopause.

Past studies have shown that white women, in particular, were concerned about menopause as a "harbinger of physical aging taking them away from society's youthful ideal," said Dr. Eun-Ok Im, the La Quinta Motor Inns Inc. Centennial Professor in nursing. "Most of the white participants in our study say they try to be humorous and laugh — to boost their inner strength and motivate themselves to go through the hardships during the menopausal transition."

Im's four-year study, funded by a $1.2 million National Institutes of Health grant, looked at ethnic differences in menopausal symptoms reported by Whites, Hispanics, African American and Asian women. The study was done via a Internet survey among 512 women and included equal numbers of mid-age (40 to 60 years old) participants from each ethnic group.

"A possible reason for the positive changes in the way white women look at menopause might be that the recent women's health movement has educated women to accept menopause as a normal developmental process, allowing them to refocus on themselves," said Im.

Results of her research were published recently in the Western Journal of Nursing Research.

African American, Hispanic and Asian women already reported being more optimistic and positive about their menopause and menopause symptoms than white women.

In Im's study, black participants cited they were raised to be strong and accepting of a natural aging process. They perceived that — compared to other difficulties in their lives — menopause was just another part of life to endure.

Getting support from family and friends during the menopausal transition is especially new to the literature on the menopausal symptom experience of Hispanic women, said Im.

"An interesting new finding, however, is that minority women prefer support from those who are of the same ethnicity," she said.

Minority participants also expressed their need for more information and educational programs, which Im sees as an additional encouraging sign. In the past, ethnic minority groups rarely talked about menopause with others and hardly ever said they wanted more information about the change of life, she said.

Im's study supported research that found significant ethnic differences in the total number and severity of menopausal symptoms.

Some of her findings on differences include:

  • Black women had a slightly higher percentage of hot flashes at 67.8 percent with white women at 64.4 percent and Hispanic women at 52.5 percent. Only 26.1 percent of Asian Americans said they experienced hot flashes.
  • More white women (60 percent) took some kind of treatments for menopause symptoms. These included antidepressants and alternative medicines like herbal remedies, chiropractic, meditation, acupuncture and dietary supplements.
  • African American women — 54.6 percent — experienced weight gain compared to 33.3 percent for Asians, 45 percent for white and 50.8 percent for Hispanics.
  • Whites reported higher percentages of racing heart, headache, fatigue, sleeping difficulty, breast pain, increased crying, depressed feelings, upset, grouchy feelings, difficulty in concentration, forgetfulness, breathing difficulty, ankle swelling, cold hand and feet, stomach pain, muscle and joint stiffness.
  • Whites, Hispanics and African Americans reported about the same numbers of bloating while Asians only reported 23.4 percent.
  • Whites, Hispanics and African Americans reported about the same percentage of mood swings — above 50 percent — while Asians reported only 32.4 percent mood swing symptoms.
  • Asians reported muscle and joint stiffness and neck and skull aches as frequent symptoms of menopause. Findings strongly suggest there are sub-ethnic — Chinese, Korean, Indian Filipino — differences in the menopausal symptom experience of Asians, and more studies are needed in this area.

The research also found few women (in all ethnic groups) reporting positive experiences with their physicians when they consulted them about menopausal symptoms.

Im believes her findings will work to eliminate ethnic biases and inequity in menopausal symptom management and promote culturally competent care for menopausal women. Earlier research about menopause has mostly been with white women, she noted.

"The increasing ethnic diversity of our population requires health professionals to practice with greater cultural competence," Im said.

For more information, contact: Nancy Neff; Dr. Eun-Ok Im, School of Nursing, 512-475-6352.

15 Comments to "Positive Changes in the Way Women Experience Menopause, University of Texas at Austin Multi-Ethnic Study Finds"

1.  Grady Gentry said on July 27, 2010

My wife is 50 percent White puerto rican and 50 percent southern Italian born in New York. What about mixed race? Both her and her sisters and her mother started menopause at 45 with missed menses and then hot flashes. Now at 50 mood swings, irritability, decreased desires, crying. Now she has cancer in her family history background. She doesn't want estrogen. What can a doctor help with? Do I take this study and combine the findings for white and Hispanic? Thank you

2.  menopause weight gain said on Aug. 2, 2010

That's great news! It's a good thing that the changes are positive and not negative. Thank you for this valuable information.

3.  Staying positive said on Aug. 5, 2010

I think this study is great because it brings this topic out in the open. We need more information about menopause in order to know what we may expect and how we could manage the symptoms better; but menopause should not define who we are.

4.  dorothy dreux said on Aug. 5, 2010

I have been in the medical field for 10 years and have worked primarily with a physician in Austin, Russell Roby, who has developed a protocol which severely reduces or completely eradicates the menopausal problems. He also works with andropause in men. His treatment helped me to get through my early painful menopause. He doesn't use drugs. It is a completely natural, holistic treatment, which has no side effects, is not invasive and is effective in four out of five patients. He uses sublingual therapy, and is so sure of his results, he offers a satisfaction guarantee. He will test you for free. He has done study after study, with no adverse events ever reported. The worst that can happen is that you are the unlucky one out of five for whom it doesn't work. In which case, you may request the refund of all of the money that you have paid him, and receive it promptly.

Win/win for everyone.

5.  luba sinclair said on Aug. 5, 2010

Menopause was a non-event for me. Menstruation stopped at age 55. A friend recommended yoga, another daily intake of 1,300 milligrams of evening primrose oil. I did both. It worked. I am now 65 years old and yet to experience either a hot flash or a mood swing. And I still practice yoga and take my evening primrose oil every day.

6.  janet wade said on Aug. 5, 2010

Menopause is awful.

7.  Margarita said on Aug. 6, 2010

Caution! This is a time that some people can become pregnant thinking that they are going through menopause and months later surprise...baby. Exercise, Centrum vitamins and additional calcium, magnesium and zinc have worked for me. Best of luck.

8.  Teddy M. Sousares, M.D. said on Aug. 6, 2010

Interesting findings in an area of individual reactions to a natural occurrence in females.

9.  MARY M. said on Aug. 6, 2010

The big M! Very scary! I'm a 49-year-old Hispanic female. I started experiencing early menopause at the age of 39, aching joints and bones headaches, crying, irritability, heart racing, hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, loss of concentration, nausea, forgetfulness. Like my late grandmother used to say, "It's just part of life into womanhood, learn how to adjust to it naturally." The findings are very interesting. This is a topic that should be spoken about more often and doctors must learn more about.

10.  Jeanne Moorton said on Aug. 6, 2010

Although I've found hot flashes to be annoying, they're not nearly as debilitating as the menstrual cramps I used to have. Overall, I feel better now at age 54 than I did 20 years ago. I have not taken any medications or supplements for menopausal symptoms for fear of dangerous side effects or just plain wasting money on unproven treatments.

11.  Kathy Boas said on Aug. 6, 2010

Menopause was hell. As an executive in the community I was often leading meetings of both men and women. Hot flashes caused my face to redden and I sweat a lot. It was a pleasure to be rid of periods, but toward the end of my menopause I suffered a month-long depression.

12.  Elizabeth said on Aug. 7, 2010

I wish someone would conduct a comprehensive study on an increase in paranoia and other irrational and abusive behaviors during menopause. My friends and I have encountered more than a few female bosses and coworkers whose behavior was harmful, but no one seems to have a solution or a workable approach.

13.  Susie said on Aug. 11, 2010

My doctor's response when I reported the end of my cycles was to try to prescribe hormones, which I refused. I've found this process to be quite happy, since the physical misery and emotional ups and downs are gone! Great that the information is being shared, but I can think of many more worthwhile and timely issues to spend $1.2 million on in today's world.

14.  LeeAnne said on Sept. 9, 2010

I found that different M.D.s offer very different approaches so I have been very confused during this 10-year process. One doctor said "use as much estrogen as you need" and recently another was horrified at my major overdose of estrogen. The hard thing for me is going along for months feeling normal, then WHAM, all the symptoms come back, even with estrogen...and for me they are intolerable! So glad to know I am not alone. I am a white female, very active, eat well, etc.

15.  Allison said on Nov. 10, 2010

I found all of the information interesting. I have hot flashes and simply explain to my 14 year old that mommy is flashing. They are unbearable. Now perhaps I have some explanation into the headaches. This is been going on for a couple of years. I am wondering how long it lasts and it seems as though, I am better off. I am not taking any medicine, but this is all new to me. I have spoken to my mom. My sisters, older and younger, have not shared. I will try again. I have all my equipment and soon will be 48. Thank you all for sharing.