Symptoms related to perimenopause and menopause including hot flashes and night sweats (vasomotor symptoms), brain fog, sleep disturbances, mood changes, joint pain and cognitive changes can have a significant impact on the quality of life for many women during this phase of life.
Roughly 40% of perimenopausal women report having issues with their sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, “one in seven adults suffers from chronic insomnia. For women, that number is nearly double, with one in four women experiencing some symptoms of insomnia. The risk of insomnia increases into menopause, with as many as 61 percent of postmenopausal women reporting insomnia symptoms.” Insomnia can also increase anxiety and irritability, impair memory and concentration which then compounds the brain fog and mood changes many perimenopausal women are already experiencing.
Menopause Timing and Demographics
According to experts, menopause occurs in most women between the ages of 45 to 55. Perimenopause, when the body begins to make the transition to menopause, can begin as early as the mid-30’s for some women. The average duration for perimenopause is around three to four years, but it can last as long as 10 years for some women.
The Economic and Workplace Costs of Menopause
Given that menopause occurs at an average age of 52 in the U.S., and the fact that midlife women make up a sizable proportion of the workforce (women between the ages of 45 and 54 make up 20 percent of the female workforce in the U.S.), the impact of menopause symptoms on absenteeism, productivity, increased direct and indirect medical costs, and lost opportunities for career advancement can add up.
Study Findings on Menopause’s Effect on Employment
According to the results of a study released by the Mayo Clinic in April of this year, 13% of the 5000 women surveyed experienced an adverse work outcome related to their menopause symptoms and roughly 11% were missing days from work due to their symptoms. Adverse outcomes include missed days at work, reduced hours, being laid off or fired or choosing to quit. To put it in financial terms, menopause symptoms resulted in almost $1.8 billion in lost work time annually in the U.S which increased to $26.6 billion annually when medical expenses were added in.
Tackling Menopause Stigma in the Workplace
Given that a multitude of symptoms will impact women during menopause, many of which can be difficult to manage or hide in a work environment, education and opening up conversations can be keys to helping reduce the stigma around this normal phase of life. We are only just beginning to recognize this in the U.S. Meanwhile, in the U.K. they have been working on informing and educating employers for the last few years in an effort to address the taboo, normalize conversations and help retain talent.