In a new study, researchers found that women who experience premature menopause are almost three times more likely to develop multiple, chronic medical problems in their 60s compared to women who went through menopause at the age of 50 or 51.
These are the findings from a study of 5107 women who were part of a national study of 11,258 Australian women, aged 45-50 years in 1996 and who were followed until 2016.
The research was conducted by a team at The University of Queensland.
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 the age of 40 or younger, is linked to a number of individual medical problems in later life, such as heart 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 multiple medical conditions—known as multimorbidity.
In the study, the researchers used data on women who had joined the prospective Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health between 1946 and 1951.
The women reported whether they had been diagnosed with or treated for any of 11 health problems in the past three 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 two or more of these conditions.
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 50-51 years, women with premature menopause were twice as likely to develop multimorbidity by the age of 60, and three times as likely to develop multimorbidity from the age of 60 onwards.
The team 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 50-51.
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 50-51.
The findings show that premature menopause is associated with an increased risk of developing multimorbidity.
The team suggests 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.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Xiaolin Xu from the University of Queensland.
The study is published in Human Reproduction.
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