Adversity, throughout our lives, tends to take a heavy toll on our physical and mental health, even years after it has passed. Thus, a new study suggests that a history of physical or sexual abuseamong other psychosocial stressors (such as financial instability) can lead to worse menopausal symptoms and overall lower well-being for up to two decades.

Effects up to 20 years later

As published by the authors in the specialized magazine menopausemenopause is often accompanied by a series of symptoms that negatively affect the quality of life for women, such as ‘hot flashes’ (sudden feeling of warmth), sleep disturbances, depressive symptoms and sexual dysfunction. Still, the experience of all women is not necessarily the same, and in some women these discomforts are especially severe.

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The reasons for these differences are many and varied, and according to this work, carried out on a cohort of 700 womenit seems that they would include a history of psychosocial stressors from childhood to pregnancy.

One of the particularities of this study is that, unlike most of the literature that explores the relationship between abuse and health, it focuses on past abuses and its consequences in subsequent decades instead of looking exclusively at the abuses at the time of the investigation.

major depressive symptoms

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More specifically, those women who had suffered physical or sexual abuse exhibited worse menopausal symptoms, worse health in general and more depressive symptoms; something similar happened with those who claimed to have experienced financial instability. Where they found no connection, however, is between psychosocial stressors and generalized anxiety symptoms in midlife.

These results underline the importance of adverse experiences in the mental and physical health of women, for which the authors defend the need to investigate more deeply the effects of cumulative exposure to chronic and repeated stress.

References

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Faleschini, Sabrina PhD1; Tiemeier, Henning MD, PhD2; Raffles-Shiman, Sheryl L. MPH1; Rich-Edwards, Janet ScD, MPH3,4,5; Joffe, Hadine MD, MSc5,6; Perng, Wei PhD, MPH7; Shifren, Jan MD, NCMP8; Chavarro, Jorge E. ScD, MD3,9; Hivert, Marie-France MD, MMSc1,10; Oken, Emily MD, MPH1,9. Longitudinal associations of psychosocial stressors with menopausal symptoms and well-being among women in midlife. menopause. (2022) DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000002056