A study in 2022 discovered a greater disparity in Menopause symptoms and treatments between women of colour and their white peers. Symptoms can be more severe and present earlier and treatment availability can be patchy in areas with high ethnic populations.
The Study of Womens’ Health Across the Nation (SWAN) commenced in 1994 in the USA and followed large groups of women over several years and uncovered several differences between white, Hispanic, south Asian and black women in physical, psychological and social areas of their menopause experiences.
For example, black women were found to experience more severe vasomotor symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats than white women and were more likely to enter perimenopause at an earlier age and for a longer duration.
Socioeconomic reasons have been found to play a huge role in the treatment disparity. NHS, GP-provided, HRT prescriptions for the first 3 months of 2022 were found to be four times higher in areas of high, white populations compared to areas with high ethnic populations. Cultural differences and differing levels of stigma and taboo associated with menopause leads to many women missing out on health information and treatment readily available to white, middle-class women.
In recent years Menopause has become more mainstream and finally been added to the political agenda allowing women greater access to information and treatment as well as understanding and support from the wider community. However, society is still failing large groups of women who may suffer greater difficulties and may feel less able to discuss the subject openly leading to isolation and unnecessary suffering.
All women need equal access to menopause care regardless of colour and ethnicity. Treatment should be based on an individual’s needs regardless of the community they live in. All healthcare providers need a better understanding of their patients’ requirements whether that is ensuring multilingual information leaflets appropriate for the community they serve or a better understanding of cultural sensitivities and ways to overcome barriers.
Improved training for all healthcare providers involved in womens' health and especially menopause can lead to greater understanding of the needs of all women especially those at greatest risk of severe symptoms and long-term health problems thus reducing health inequalities and improving outcomes for all.
Heath, L. (2023) Ethnic Minority Women in England far less Likely to get Menopause Treatment, www.inews.co.uk
Study of Womens’ Health Across the Nation, (2023) www.swanstudy.org
Levine, B. (2022) What Experts want Women of Colour to know about Menopause. www.everdayhealth.com
Amin, S. (2022) What to know About Racial Disparities in Menopause. www.healthline.com
This article is part of myTamarin's Mental Health Awareness Week blog series looking into how employers should be supporting through critical life events. This one looks into the impact menopause can have on mental health.Read post