Promoting good mental health over the menopause transition

Elsevier, The Lancet, 2024, ISSN 0140-6736,
Lydia Brown, Myra S Hunter, Rong Chen, Carolyn J Crandall, Jennifer L Gordon, Gita D Mishra, Viktoria Rother, Hadine Joffe, Martha Hickey

The potential risk for mental health conditions over the menopause transition shapes women's expectations and informs putative physiological mechanisms regulating women's mental health. We review evidence from prospective studies reporting on associations between mental health conditions and the menopause transition. Major depressive disorder and the more prevalent subthreshold depressive symptoms are the most common conditions studied. We reviewed 12 prospective studies reporting depressive symptoms, major depressive disorder, or both over the menopause transition and found no compelling evidence for a universal increased risk for either condition. However, specific subgroups of participants, primarily defined by menopause-related risk factors (ie, vasomotor symptoms that are severe or disturb sleep, a long duration of the transition, or reproductive hormone dynamics) and psychosocial risk factors (eg, stressful life events), were vulnerable to depressive symptoms. The increased risk of major depressive disorder over the menopause transition appears predominantly in individuals with previous major depressive disorder. Greater focus on recognising risk factors in primary care is warranted. On the basis of scarce data, we found no compelling evidence that risk of anxiety, bipolar disorder, or psychosis is universally elevated over the menopause transition. Potential misattribution of psychological distress and psychiatric disorders to menopause could harm women by delaying accurate diagnosis and the initiation of effective psychotropic treatments, and by creating negative expectations for people approaching menopause. A paradigm shift is needed. We conclude with recommendations for the detection and treatment of depressive symptoms or major depressive disorder and strategies to promote good mental health over the menopause transition, while responsibly preparing and supporting those at risk.