Important research on the paths which women journey to menopause is being gathered outside of clinical trials and academe. A 2022 survey which one healthcare company recently conducted of over 2,000 US women aged 40 to 65 in various stages of menopause sought to ascertain women’s perimenopausal and menopausal awareness, what support systems they believed they had in place, how the transition impacted sexual intimacy and their views on aging in general.
While not peer-reviewed data, the attitudes, opinions, and beliefs expressed by this cohort of women expands upon the findings of the firm’s first annual survey published last year.
Bonafide Health LLC’s 2022 “The State of Menopause” survey reflects an improvement since last year in women’s willingness to seek menopause support and resources, but also reveals a lingering gap in women’s success in attaining either. The survey responses underscore deficiencies in their families’, friends’, and intimate partners’ understanding and discussion of both perimenopause and menopause. Such deficits are reflected in the media, too, the survey finds. Most tellingly, they are often conceded by women themselves.
Insights in hindsight
Of special note to women’s’ healthcare providers is the survey’s finding that the top 5 things women wish they had known prior to undergoing perimenopause are:
- What symptoms they should expect?
- What can trigger symptoms?
- How to relieve symptoms?
- That talking about perimenopause more openly helps, and
- That perimenopause affects every individual differently.
The data also indicate that while the majority of survey respondents were aware of what perimenopause is, nearly a third were unaware. Many were uncertain about the timing of its onset and what treatment options are available to counter its symptoms. Fully 27% were not aware of its common signs and symptoms, and 34% were uncertain when it typically begins. When it came to menopause itself, 39% had no awareness of treatment options for symptom control.
The 6 unknowns
When asked what women wanted to know about perimenopause, 71% expressed a desire to know how to manage symptoms. Closely following at 69% were the percent of respondents who expressed uncertainty about the signs and symptoms they should be alert for during perimenopause. Many struggled with the wide spectrum of perimenopause effects, with 64% of those responding wishing they knew the difference between what constituted a “normal” perimenopausal experience versus when signs should be escalated to a healthcare provider. When it came to timing, 59% wanted to know when they could expect perimenopause symptom onset.
The stigma of ‘shy’
Tellingly, a full 47% of the women surveyed wished they knew how to talk to others about perimenopause without being embarrassed, and 41% were still struggling with how to ask for support.
Further, respondents were more likely to have learned how to take care of themselves during perimenopause by actually living through it (38%), versus only 28% who had had the benefit of learning self-care prior to perimenopause onset. Also of note, 34% reported not knowing how to take care of themselves during the perimenopausal period.
The survey also revealed that women’s acknowledged data gaps and sense of inadequacy regarding their menopausal transition is further exacerbated by the negative stereotypes about aging they encounter in the culture itself. Only 27% stated they were “very confident” about embracing aging, with 30% indicating they were “not confident.” In terms of societal attitudes, 32% of respondents think there is more age prejudice towards older women than in the past. As a result, survey respondents indicated they were twice as likely to feel anxious rather than happy about growing older (36% versus 16%).
Overwhelmingly, participants believed that additional information might move the needle in a more positive direction and that it’s essential that more pro-aging content be directed their way in order to mitigate stereotypes and spark open discussions about the realities of their menopausal journey. A full 92% expressed a desire for more education around perimenopause and menopause. Education reigned as well when asked about partner support: 88% of respondents think men could play a more supportive role if they knew more about menopause.
In summary, the survey demonstrates that fundamental aspects of perimenopause and menopause remain misunderstood and underdiscussed. Such gaps represent part of women’s critical unmet medical needs but also provide real opportunities for their healthcare providers to initiate conversations that can change outcomes. As the survey suggests, perhaps these might begin, in part, with a revised assumption of patients’ knowledge base coupled with a renewed appreciation of their thirst to learn.
Find more of the survey’s findings on the impact of menopause on intimacy, men’s understanding of it and its symptoms, menopause and ageism and more at, “The State of Menopause.”
The contents of this feature are not provided or reviewed by NPWH.