A ground-breaking report, authored by leading menopause experts and based on Jean Hailes for Women’s Health’s 2023 National Women’s Health Survey, offers a first-of-its-kind look into how Australian women experience menopause symptoms.
The nationally representative findings indicate that the workplace impact of menopause symptoms may be overstated, while underscoring the importance of timely medical consultations during perimenopause.
The National Women’s Health Survey found that one-quarter of Australian women in mid-life (45-64) reported that symptoms (experienced in the last five years) that they attributed to menopause made it hard to do daily activities. However, another one-quarter reported these symptoms had no substantial impact on their daily lives.
Dr Sarah White, CEO of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, emphasised the need for accurate data.
“There are people quoting shocking statistics, like ‘nearly one million’ women quitting their jobs in the UK because of menopause, when really this was a study that bundled together a variety of reasons, including pregnancy, for why women left the workforce.
“While we often hear alarming statistics about women quitting jobs due to menopause, our survey reveals that only 7% of mid-life Australian women have missed work due to menopause symptoms, however 17% reported taking an extended break in the last five years.
“We must address workplace flexibility for women with severe symptoms, but we also need to recognise that other health issues like pelvic pain and menstrual problems affect women similarly.”
“As more commercial organisations and health advocates venture into this global menopause market, there is a danger that they will create a ‘menopause problem’ in the minds of women and employers that can be ‘fixed’ by the purchase of goods and services,” said Dr White.
Professor Susan Davis AO, report co-author and head of the Monash University Women’s Health Research Program, said that the National Women’s Health Survey revealed women’s perceptions of menopause-related symptoms, but that public understanding about these symptoms and their management is limited.
“The menopause can cause debilitating symptoms for some women.” However, unfortunately, a lot of women are being led to believe that everything that goes wrong in mid-life is due to menopause and that’s just not the case. Mid-life is a time when women are dealing with kids, with careers, with elderly parents, with changes in health. It’s not all about menopause.”
“Recognising menopause-related symptoms and differentiating them from mid-life stressors or medical issues, is crucial for effectively promoting women’s health and well-being. Women who attribute all mid-life challenges to menopause miss the chance to address underlying issues.”
“Increasing awareness of genuine menopause and perimenopause symptoms is vital to dispel myths and prevent commercial exploitation. While understanding women’s diverse experiences, we must safeguard against attempts to monetise this life stage,” said Professor Davis.
Study co-author, Dr Karen Magraith, immediate Past President of the Australasian Menopause Society said it was vital to approach women’s health with empathy and understanding.
“Valuing women’s experiences and highlighting that some women do not suffer menopausal symptoms is not about undermining the experiences of those who do but about acknowledging that menopause is unique for each woman.”
“Menopause should be a key check point for health, and all women, regardless of their experience should be equipped with accurate information, support, and knowledge to navigate this transition confidently.”
Recommendations from the report include:
- Improving public understanding of menopause symptoms and evidence-based treatments.
- Encouraging women under 45 to consult a doctor if they think they might be menopausal
- Equipping GPs to assess and manage menopausal symptoms and related health risks.
- Promoting informed discussions on menopause without catastrophising the transition.