Symptoms of Menopause Linked to Adverse Outcomes for Women in the Workplace

Sep 3, 2023

Symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, sleep disturbances, joint pain, and cognitive difficulties, negatively impact the quality of life for millions of women. They can also have adverse effects on women in the workplace. A recent study conducted by Mayo Clinic highlights the following figures: an estimated $1.8 billion in lost work hours and $26.6 billion when combined with medical costs, in the United States alone.

“Employers recognize a critical need to address this issue for women in the workplace,” says lead author Stephanie Faubion, MD, Director of Mayo Women’s Health.

Menopause typically occurs at an average age of around 52 years. Given that middle-aged women constitute a significant portion of the global workforce, the impact of menopausal symptoms on absenteeism, productivity, increased medical expenses, and missed career advancement opportunities is significant.

To assess the impact of menopausal symptoms on women in the workplace, Mayo Clinic researchers invited 32,469 women aged 45 to 60 receiving primary care at Mayo Clinic to participate in a survey study. Just over 5,200 women responded (16.1%), with 4,440 currently employed women included in the study. Just over 5,200 women responded (16.1%), and of those, 4,440 women were currently employed and included in the study.

Findings, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, identified a connection between menopausal symptoms and adverse work outcomes, including a loss of work productivity, with the severity of menopausal symptoms strongly predicting unfavorable work outcomes.

“Thirteen percent of the women we surveyed experienced an adverse work outcome associated with menopausal symptoms, and around 11% missed work due to these symptoms,” says Dr. Faubion.

The article estimates the annual economic impact based on lost work days at $1.8 billion. Dr. Faubion, the study’s first author, notes that when medical costs are factored in, the cost amounts to approximately $26.6 billion annually.

In total, 597 women (13.4%) reported at least one adverse work outcome due to menopausal symptoms, and 485 women reported missing one or more days of work in the past year due to symptoms.

“Adding to the complexity of the female menopausal experience is the fact that this topic has been a taboo, especially in the workplace, potentially increasing the psychological burden of these symptoms,” says senior author Ekta Kapoor, MBBS, Assistant Director of Mayo Women’s Health. “Women often fear bias, discrimination, and stigmatization and may therefore hesitate to disclose their menopausal symptoms to their workplace managers and others. Recognizing these concerns and creating a safe work environment for women to discuss their health needs can help address this issue.”

Dr. Faubion and Dr. Kapoor are also co-authors of an article to be published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings on the association between migraines and vasomotor symptoms. Vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, are characteristic menopausal symptoms experienced by most women during the menopausal transition.

“Our research highlights the critical need to address this issue for women in the workplace,” says Dr. Faubion. “Doctors must inquire about menopausal symptoms and offer guidance and treatment, and employers must develop and implement workplace strategies and policies to assist women in navigating this universal life transition.” (source Mayo Clinic)

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