Menopause and all its symptoms can have a major effect on a woman’s life. But do menopause symptoms in women ages 44 to 60 affect their work ability? That is the question asked in the March 2012 issue of Menopause. Work ability is an occupational health term used to address the balance between a person’s resources and work demands and predicts both future impairment and how much a person will be sick or absent from work. This study showed that being in menopause contributed to increased sickness and absence from work. Looking at this and other studies, the main symptoms affecting a menopausal woman’s ability to work are severe hot flashes and too little sleep. Both could be helped by estrogen.
Today, over 60% of women in Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands and the US are working. In the US, 68 million women, half the work force, work either full or part time. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the year 2018 over 2 million women between 65 and 74 years will be working. So lots of women in menopause are and will be working across the economic spectrum, and studies show that working has a positive affect on their self-esteem, health and stress.
A major reason so many women have such severe symptoms is a result of the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study, which showed that women who took estrogen plus progestin had a higher rate of stroke, blood clots, heart attack and breast cancer than women who didn’t take it. In fact, only last week a jury awarded three women $72.6 million dollars against Pfizer stating Prempro caused their breast cancer. The result: millions of women have either stopped or never taken estrogen. Before the WHI study, between 35 – 40% of women in menopause were using hormones; now less than 15% of menopausal women take it and that number is dropping.
But that should not always be the case. Women who have their uterus removed need only estrogen without progesterone. A newer WHI study showed these women who take estrogen only have a 23% reduction of breast cancer. So what is a menopausal woman to do? Talk with your doctor. Look for alternatives to estrogen. But make sure that your situation is individualized. Work ability, and life ability in general, doesn’t have to be so affected, and HRT might be right for you.