Supportive employers who acknowledge the challenges many women experience with the menopause can help reduce the symptoms they suffer from at work, according to new research.
The study, led by Myra Hunter at King’s College London and published in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society, is believed to be the first to develop and evaluate an unguided, self-help intervention specifically to help postmenopausal women to manage menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats in the workplace.
The results suggest that intervention of this kind is effective and can help women at work. It involved 124 women aged 45 to 60 years who report having 10 or more problematic symptoms of menopause a week. Some where given access to self help, cognitive behavioural advice and others were not. They were assessed for how much their symptoms affected them generally, symptom frequency and impact on their work and other parts of their lives.
The researchers found that the self help advice significantly reduced the effect of symptoms and their frequency, made it easier for them to work and improved their sleep patterns and overall well being.
They say social stigma around the menopause and negative connotations contribute to women feeling embarrassed and anxious at work. On the other hand, more positive/neutral beliefs about the menopause, for example, that symptoms are controllable and that menopause can herald a new life phase can lessen symptoms and make it easier for them to cope.
The researchers say: “The trial findings have implications for various key stakeholders; employers, occupational health professionals, trade union representatives, and other professionals with a role in workplace health and well-being, may wish to make self-help CBT available to staff who have bothersome menopause symptoms. Similarly, policy makers should ensure that sufficient awareness and provision of information and help is offered to staff who may be experiencing menopause-related difficulties at work, in line with recent recommendations.”
A poll published this week by Comres for BBC Radio Sheffield and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour found 70% of menopausal women did not make their employer aware they were experiencing symptoms. Professor Amanda Griffiths, a psychologist specialising in mid-life and older people’s health and wellbeing at work, said: “Employers can help by communicating to their workforce that health-related problems such as the menopause are normal.” She added that employers could access online guidance from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine and also from trade unions.