Depression affects as many as 70% of women transitioning into menopause. A study published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), confirms this high prevalence and identifies the greatest risk factors.
The study involved 485 postmenopausal Turkish women aged between 35 and 78 years (average 56.3). The frequency of depressive symptoms, the variables affecting it, levels of anxiety and fear of death, were evaluated. The relationship between these variables and postmenopausal depression were determined. Although lower than in some previous studies, due to a younger cohort, 41% of participants experienced some form of depression.
Risk factors that most affected postmenopausal depression were being widowed, or separation from a spouse, alcohol consumption, any medical history requiring continuous medication, physical disability, physician-diagnosed mental illness, having four or more living children.
No relation was found between depression and fear of death, although younger age may have influenced this finding.
The high prevalence of depressive symptoms in midlife women was particularly found in those with a history of depression or anxiety, chronic health conditions, psychosocial factors such as major stressful life events.
“Menopause transition is a period of vulnerability in terms of mood”, states the NAMS medical director.