By Imogen Robinson
Eight million middle aged women could be under severe strain due to menopause symptoms, with a considerable impact on the economy, a new survey has revealed.
The survey of over 1000 women found that 80% reported suffering with moderate to severe menopausal symptoms.
Despite the fact the women now have more freedom and disposable income at midlife than in previous generations, lack of knowledge and lack of effective treatment for menopause is draining them of money, and affecting their happiness and productivity.
In the survey, conducted by the Really Useful Health Company, 84% reported that their productivity at work was reduced.
75% of menopausal women surveyed felt their productivity was actually reduced for over a week every month, which equates to 280 million less productive work days per year in the UK.
Yet despite suffering, only 20% of menopausal woman reported taking time off work to deal with the symptoms.
On top of causing issues in the workplace, 50% of respondents said the menopause caused stress on their close relationships and 60% said they had lower self esteem.
Despite symptoms being so widespread, the survey revealed that many women still had problems finding suitable treatments.
A third of respondents reported spending more than £100 on over the counter remedies which had minimal impact on their symptoms, and a further 13% spent more than £200 on treatments which did not work.
Almost a third spent more than £50 on prescription fees for drugs and hormones, yet rated them 3 out of 10 for effectiveness.
Maryon Stewart, a menopause expert and campaigner who runs the Really Useful Health Company, said: “It has been widely thought that 8 out of 10 women will develop menopausal symptoms at some point due to a drop in oestrogen levels, and for a quarter of these symptoms will be more severe. What we are seeing though is much worse.
“Being 50 should be a cause for celebration. May women are at the height of their earning capacity and should feel confident about coping with life. Instead, we are seeing lost work days, a hit on the economy, relationships under strain, and a whole cohort of women are living in misery.”
The release of Maryon’s research comes shortly after a government study was published earlier this week, entitled ‘The effects of menopause transition on women’s economic participation in the UK’.
The study is the product of a comprehensive review of 104 publications published between 1990 to March 2016 on the effects of menopause symptoms on women, the workplace, and the economy.
In one study analysed, fear of redundancy was reported by 78% of respondents as a reason for non-disclosure of menopause symptoms to line managers, with respondents expressing concern that managers would link their situation to performance work.
Some studies analysed in the review identified sleep disturbances as having the most detrimental effect on menopausal women’s work of all the symptoms experienced.
It was also shown that hot flushes reduced work performance, concentration, attention to detail, and the ability to learn.
A small amount of evidence even pointed to women choosing to isolate themselves at work or avoid stressful situations due to their hot flushes.
In another study reviewed, which used secondary US data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey covering the period from 1999 to 2004, it was found that women in the sample who had stopped taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) were 30% more likely to leave their jobs than those who continued with the treatment.
Despite all the evidence, only a few studies actually investigated whether symptoms impact labour market outcomes, and there were no studies on the effects of menopause transition on finding a job or women’s wages, showing that more research needs to be done.
The study authors acknowledged that there is a case for employer intervention, especially in the UK, where few companies are helping women as they negotiate menopause.
Part of the problem, according to Maryon, is that there is an unwillingness of healthcare specialists to recognise the severity of the issue and look beyond prescribing drugs.
She added: “A new, more holistic approach to life is required to deal with the menopause and beyond.
“My survey clearly demonstrates that a significant number of menopausal women need help and yet have no effective relief other than pharmaceutical options.”