Poverty Linked to Early Menopause

Menopause Starts 1.2 Years Sooner with Lifelong Poverty

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 15, 2002 -- Women with lifelong economic distress start menopause 1.2 years earlier than other women, a Boston-area survey shows.

The finding comes from the Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles, conducted 1995-1997 in women 36 to 45 years old. In one part of the study, researchers looked at factors associated with perimenopause, which lasts from two to eight years. It begins with the first signs of age-related menstrual irregularity and ends a year after a woman's last period. Most women begin perimenopause at age 47-48.

L.A. Wise and colleagues at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital studied 603 premenopausal women who answered questionnaires every six months for three years. For women who began menopause early, two factors stood out.

One was lifelong poverty. Women who reported lifelong economic distress -- but not those reporting economic distress only during childhood or only during adulthood -- were at increased risk of early perimenopause.

The other factor was education. Risk of early perimenopause increased as women's level of educational achievement decreased.

The researchers note that stress, undernourishment, and increased exposure to environmental toxins are linked to early menopause.

"Adverse socioeconomic conditions across the lifespan, when measured in terms of economic hardship and low educational attainment, may be associated with an increased rate of entry into perimenopause," Wise and colleagues write.

The study appears in the November issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. -->