Premature Menopause Increases Risk of Multiple Health Problems
January 20, 2020

Women who experience premature menopause are almost 3 times more likely to develop multiple, chronic medical problems in their 60s compared with women who went through menopause at age 50 or 51, according to a study published in Human Reproduction.
“Our findings indicate that multimorbidity is common in mid-aged and early-elderly women,” said Gita Mishra, PhD, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. “Premature menopause is associated with an increased risk of developing multimorbidity, even after adjusting for previous chronic conditions and for possible factors that could affect the results, such as whether or not the women had children, how many, education, body mass index, smoking and physical activity.”

As life expectancy is now more than 80 years for women in high income countries, a third of a woman’s life is spent after the menopause. It is known already that premature menopause, occurring at age 40 years or younger, is linked to a number of individual medical problems in later life, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, there is little information about whether there is also an association between the time of natural menopause and the development of multimorbidity.

The study included 5,107 women who were part of a national study of 11,258 Australian women, aged 45 to 50 years in 1996. The women responded to the first survey in 1996 and then answered questionnaires every 3 years (apart from a 2-year interval between the first and second survey) until 2016. The women reported whether they had been diagnosed with or treated for any of 11 health problems in the past 3 years: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, anxiety or breast cancer. Women were considered to have multimorbidity if they had 2 or more of these conditions.

The women’s age at natural menopause was defined as at least 12 months without monthly bleeding, where this was not the result of a surgical intervention such as removal of the ovaries or hysterectomy.

During the 20 years of follow-up, 2.3% of women experienced premature menopause and 55% developed multimorbidity. Compared with women who experienced menopause at the age of 50 to 51 years, women with premature menopause were twice as likely to develop multimorbidity by the age of 60, and 3 times as likely to develop multimorbidity from the age of 60 onwards.

“We found that 71% of women with premature menopause had developed multimorbidity by the age of 60 compared with 55% of women who experienced menopause at the age of 50 to 51,” said Xiaolin Xu, PhD, The University of Queensland. “In addition, 45% of women with premature menopause had developed multimorbidity in their 60s compared with 40% of women who experienced menopause at the age of 50 to 51.”

“We also found that premature menopause is associated with a higher incidence of individual chronic conditions,” Dr. Xu added:

The researchers said they believe that this is the first study to assess the link between premature menopause and the development of multimorbidity in a large group of women and with long-term, prospective follow-up.

“Our findings suggest that health professionals should consider providing comprehensive screening and assessment of risk factors when treating women who experience natural premature menopause in order to assess their risk of multimorbidity,” said Dr. Mishra.


SOURCE: European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology