Analysis of the SWAN study suggests that women of color reach menopause earlier and experience more intense symptoms compared to white women.
- This article fails to mention that teen girls of color also BEGIN their menstrual periods earlier than non-Hispanic white girls, 6 months earlier on average. Therefore the average duration of reproductive life is about the same across race.
- This article also fails to discuss the advantages of menopause such as: freedom from pregnancy worries, freedom from menstruation including cramps, and freedom from the side effects of female hormones (including bloating, headaches, nausea, and mood swings).
Many factors come into play when women enter menopause, making each woman’s experience unique. However, results from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) show that women of color tend to enter perimenopause and menopause at earlier ages than their white peers, have longer transition periods, and experience more intense hot flashes and vaginal symptoms.
The SWAN study has found the following so far:
- Black, Asian, and Latina women on average begin menopause earlier than white women. Non-Hispanic white women’s average age at final menstrual period (FMP) was 51.4 years; Latina women from the New York–New Jersey area had theirs 1.7 years earlier, Chinese women from Oakland 1.2 years earlier, and Black women from Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Boston 1.2 years earlier. (1)
- Black women take longer to transition to menopause, at least partly because the irregular bleeding, which characterizes the transition, starts at a younger age, according to a study published in February 2017 in Menopause. (2)
- Some groups experience the symptoms associated with menopause even late into the transition. The average duration of menopause related hot flashes and night sweats was 6.5 years in non-Hispanic white women in SWAN, 8.9 years in Latina women, and 10.1 years in Black women. Nanette Santoro, MD, professor and E. Stewart Taylor chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, who has contributed to the research in SWAN, notes that lean Black women — as opposed to Black women with obesity — are most likely to have the longest lasting and most severe hot flashes. On the flip side, in Chinese American women they lasted 5.4 years, and in Japanese American women from Los Angeles they lasted 4.8 years. (2)
- Latina women have more complaints of vaginal symptoms (vaginal dryness and painful sex), and interestingly vaginal symptoms vary by sub-ethnicity, in that Central American and South American Hispanic women (compared with Caribbean Hispanic women) reported having the worst symptoms. (2,3)
- Native American women had more hot flashes than any ethnic group in their thirties and forties prior to menopause, but they were not studied through the menopause transition. That data, published in February 2014 in Menopause, implies that Native American women may have the very worst menopausal experience. (4)