This site is intended for health professionals only

Women in perimenopause have significant increased risk of depression

Women in perimenopause have significant increased risk of depression

Women who are perimenopausal are 40% more likely to experience depression than those without any symptoms of the menopause, UK researchers have reported.

By contrast, the meta-analysis of seven studies that involved more than 9,000 women around the world found no significant increase in depression risk for post-menopausal women compared to those with those who were pre-menopausal.

The team from University College London concluded women could be vulnerable to depression in the run-up to their periods stopping, with the development of new cases or existing symptoms worsening.

Identifying the menopausal stages when women are most at risk of depressive symptoms could help healthcare services provide appropriate support, they said in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

In the research, depressive symptoms had been measured using standardised, internationally recognised questionnaires which take into account factors such as a lack of interest in doing things, issues with sleep, and feelings of low mood.

But there was not enough data for the researchers to compare depression in perimenopausal and post-menopausal women.

More research is now needed into the exact mechanisms that lead to depression for women during the menopause as well as factors that might increase risk, they added.

Studies are also needed on cultural differences in the experience of depressive symptoms, the researchers said.

The same research team recently reported that mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy could be an effective form of treatment for non-physical symptoms of the menopause.

Senior author Dr Roopal Desai, a clinical fellow in the UCL Psychology and Language Sciences department, said: ‘This study shows that women in the perimenopausal stage are significantly more likely to experience depression than either before or after this stage.

‘Our findings emphasise the importance of acknowledging that women in this life-stage are more vulnerable to experiencing depression.

‘It also underlines the need to provide support and screening for women to help address their mental health needs effectively.’

Study lead Professor Aimee Spector, professor of clinical psychology of ageing at UCL, said the perimenopause can last for three to five years: ‘Women spend years of their lives dealing with menopausal symptoms that can have a huge impact on their wellbeing and quality of life.

‘Our findings show just how significantly the mental health of perimenopausal women can suffer during this time.

‘We need greater awareness and support to ensure they receive appropriate help and care both medically, in the workplace and at home.’

This article was first published by our sister title Pulse

See how our symptom tool can help you make better sense of patient presentations
Click here to search a symptom