Menopause Symptoms Are Worse For Black Women, But They're Less Likely to Receive Medical Help

Black women are more likely to have worse symptoms when experiencing menopause, according to a new study. Additionally, Black women reach menopause 8.5 months earlier than white women. They’re also more likely to deal with worse symptoms such as hot flashes, depression, and sleep disturbances.

However, they are, less likely to receive hormone therapy, as well as medical and mental health services.

This comes from findings of a review of 25 years of research from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation also known as SWAN.

46% of Black women, compared to 37% of white women, reported experiencing hot flashes and 27% of Black women reported clinically significant depressive symptoms, whilst only 22% white women reported the same symptom.

Black women were more likely to report numerous recurrent episodes of depression over time. Although they were less likely to be treated for depression compared to white women.

“Our analysis suggests that the enduring influence of structural racism—differential access to the goods, services and opportunities of society by race—is a major contributor to the health disparities between Black and white women in the midlife,” lead author Siobán Harlow, professor emeritus at U-M’s School of Public Health, said.

In an Instagram posted by blkwomenshealth a user writes “I’m 35 and was diagnosed as post-menopausal in complaining about irregular cycles, hot flashes, severe depression, sleepiness. I knew I was in menopause and said so many times but kept dismissed because my hormones were ‘within normal range’,”

“Menopause is a reproductive justice and health equity issue,” another user writes.

Over 500 studies were conducted with SWAN data, which included 3,300 women, ages 42-52, in 1998 and followed them through menopause and into early old age. Researchers set out to understand the difference between Black and white women.

“One aspect was to bring the full health disparity story together across the large range of health outcomes SWAN has examined. We then tried to gain a deeper understanding of the health implications of the differential life context of Black women compared to the white women and to explicitly acknowledge that these different life contexts carry different risks,” Harlow said.

“It is clear that discrimination and structural racism play an important role in health broadly but getting the full story is difficult,” Harlow said. “It’s putting each of the little pieces together and understanding the overall picture—how do we integrate and understand the difference in the experience of the menopausal transition as a whole.”

Plans to change UK legislation to improve the rights of women going through menopause have been rejected by the government.

In July 2022, the cross-party Women and Equalities Committee published a report highlighting the impact menopause has on the workplace. The report found that a lack of support forced women out of work and gave 12 recommendations for giving working women more rights.

Additionally, a survey of 2,000 women across the UK aged 45 to 67 suffering from menopause symptoms, found that a lack of support was having a direct impact on their choice to leave the workplace – it was feared up to 1 million women in the UK could be impacted by this.