Successful public health campaigns in recent years have lifted the lid on the misery menopause wreaks on millions of women — but now experts are warning of a huge toll on the US economy, too.
a Stady The Mayo Clinic estimates that the condition costs American employers at least $27 billion annually in sick days and health care costs.
More than a million American women begin the “transformation” each year, which can cause a host of debilitating symptoms, from hot flashes and vaginal dryness to low self-esteem.
Experts said the numbers show that it is in the interest of employers to improve workplace menopause support to reduce the economic burden, such as menopause-specific sick leave and flexible working hours.
Symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, changes in mood, sleep disturbances, and cognitive difficulties that can greatly affect a woman’s life.
Graph showing specific adverse action outcomes due to menopausal symptoms. About 11 percent missed days off, while 1 percent quit, retired or swapped jobs because of menopause.
Menopause occurs when a woman’s menstrual cycle stops permanently, and is marked by the point at which a woman has not had one for 12 months in a row.
This usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with 51 being the average for the US and UK.
Menopause is a normal part of aging and occurs when the ovaries stop producing eggs. As a result, the levels of the hormones produced by the ovaries decrease.
Almost nine out of ten women experience symptoms.
Symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, changes in mood, sleep disturbances, and cognitive difficulties that can greatly affect a woman’s life.
Mental health symptoms include changes in mood, such as anxiety and low self-esteem, as well as problems with memory or concentration.
Other signs include sexual problems, bladder problems, and vaginal dryness.
Symptoms usually start before menopause officially begins, as your menstrual cycle becomes irregular. This is menopause.
Mayo Clinic researchers examined 4,440 women ages 45 to 60 who were employed and receiving primary care at one of four sites in Rochester, Minnesota; Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and the Mayo Clinic Health System of northwest Wisconsin.
Nearly 11 percent of women surveyed have missed at least one work day in the past year due to menopause. The average number of lost days was three.
Six percent reported reducing their working hours and 1 percent either quit or changed jobs.
A total of 13 women (0.3 percent) reported being laid off due to menopausal symptoms.
Multiplying by the 15,350,000 women ages 45 to 60 who work full time in the United States, researchers estimated that the cost of work lost due to menopausal symptoms is $1.8 billion annually.
This does not take into account costs due to reduced working hours, early retirement or lost jobs, which means that the overall economic cost is expected to be even higher.
If medical expenses related to menopause are added, another $24.8 billion can be attributed to American women.
This brings the total economic burden of menopause to $26.6 billion annually.
By contrast, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated that chronic diseases and lifestyle behaviors including high blood pressure, diabetes, physical inactivity, smoking and obesity reduce work productivity and cost US employers an estimated $36.4 billion in lost work days.
“Our research indicates that there is an urgent need to address this issue for women in the workplace,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, lead study author and director of women’s health at the Mayo Clinic.
Doctors need to ask women about menopausal symptoms and offer guidance and treatment, and employers need to create and implement workplace strategies and policies to help women navigate this sweeping life transition.