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Publication Detail
The relationship between social support, stressful events, and menopause symptoms.
Many women going through the menopausal transition experience vasomotor symptoms (VMS), and research has shown that there is a large amount of variation in their frequency and severity. Many lifestyle factors have been found to co-vary with VMS, including the level of social support received by the woman, and how stressed she is. Stress is well documented to worsen menopause symptoms, and there is some evidence that support eases them; however, there is little research into whether support is an effective buffer against the negative effects of stress on VMS. Using nine years of data from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (n = 2718), we use multilevel Poisson regression with random effects to test: 1) if more social support is associated with decreased VMS frequency, 2) if increased life stress worsens VMS, and 3) if support acts as a buffer against stress. After adjusting for age, marital status, smoking, self-perceived overall health, ethnicity, and menopausal status, we find that stress increases the frequency of VMS. Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not find strong evidence that emotional support led to lower VMS frequency, or that support buffers against the effects of stress. Experience of a stressful event, but not amount of social support, was included in the best fitting model; with the degree to which the woman was upset by the life stressor having the largest effect on menopause symptoms. Here, women who said they were currently upset by a stressful event experienced 21% more VMS than women who had experienced no life stressor. This research highlights that social factors may impact the menopausal transition.
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