Symptoms linked to menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats and sleep disturbances can add up to billions of dollars in medical expenses and lost productivity in the workplace, according to a study published Wednesday in journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Researchers surveyed about 5,000 women ages 45 to 60 who are primary care patients at the Mayo Clinic; 4,440 of the women were employed at the time of the study.
“A full 13% of the women we surveyed experienced an adverse work outcome related to menopause symptoms, and about 11% were missing days of work because of these symptoms,” Dr. Stephanie Faubion, the study’s lead author and the director of Mayo Clinic Women’s Health, said in a news release.
The survey, given in 2021, assessed the women’s symptoms using the Menopause Rating Scale (MRS).
Researchers found that the mean total MRS score was 12.1, which indicates a “moderate menopause symptom burden.”
“Menopause symptoms pose workplace challenges that may manifest as higher levels of lost work productivity (presenteeism), lost days of work (absenteeism), and greater numbers of outpatient medical visits,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Using 2020 US census data to identify the number of women between ages 45 and 60 in the United States, the researchers estimate that the annual cost of lost days of work is $1.8 billion and that nearly $25 billion in medical costs can be attributed to menopause.
“This estimate does not include the costs related to reduced hours of work or to the loss of employment, early retirement, or changing jobs,” the study said.
The study’s limitations include that the majority of the participants were White (93%), married (76.5%) and college-educated (59.3%).
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There were some racial and ethnic differences noted, but more research is needed, according to Faubion.
“Clinicians need to ask women about menopause symptoms and offer guidance and treatment, and employers need to create and implement workplace strategies and policies to help women navigate this universal life transition,” Faubion said.
Menopause typically happens to women between the ages of 45 and 55, when their ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Correction: A previous version of this story included an incorrect estimate of the annual cost of lost days of work.