A Mental Health Boon After Menopause?

Depression risk after menopause decreases even in women with depression history

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) As a woman approaches menopause, her body experiences a wide range of changes. Some of these changes may relate to her mental health.

A recent study found that a woman's risk of depression symptoms actually declines after her last menstrual period.

As women approached and then passed menopause, their risk of experiencing depression declined with each year.

This decline in risk even occurred among women with a history of depression symptoms.

However, these women with a history of depression still remained at higher risk for depression after menopause than women without a history of depression symptoms.

"Talk to your doctor about your depression symptoms."

The study, led by Ellen W. Freeman, PhD, of the Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, looked at the risk of depression shortly after menopause.

The researchers followed 203 women from before their menopause over an average of 14 years, ending after their natural menopause.

The women were assessed for symptoms of depression once a year over the time period they were followed.

The researchers found that women's risk of experiencing depression symptoms actually decreased with each year that passed as they approached and then passed menopause.

A woman's odds of experiencing depression declined by about 15 percent each year from the 10 years before their last menstrual period until eight years after their last period.

Expectedly, women with a history of depression were at higher risk for depression both before and after menopause.

However, even for those women, the risk of depression declined after menopause.

Women with a history of symptoms of depression were approximately 13 times more likely than those without such a history to experience depression in the years leading up to menopause.

After their last menstrual period, women with depression histories were approximately eight times more likely to experience depression symptoms than women without a history of depressive symptoms.

Even among women who experienced their first symptoms of depression in the years leading up to menopause, their risk decreased two years after their last period.

The decrease in risk of depression appeared to correlate with the changes of the women's levels of follicle-stimulating hormone.

Follicle-stimulating hormone levels increase in women as women approach menopause.

The researchers concluded that a woman's final menstrual period is a key indicator in understanding the pattern of women's decreasing risk of depression symptoms.

In addition, they found that "...women who had no history of depression before the menopause transition had a low risk of depressive symptoms two or more years after the final menstrual period."

Jen Mushtaler, MD, an OB/GYN in Austin, Texas, noted these findings give women something to look forward to after menopause.

"Very little research has been conducted on the perimenopausal woman and the associated health changes," Dr. Mushtaler said. "It is exciting to see not only research but positive findings for women to look forward to."

The study was published November 13 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

One author has received research funding from Forest Laboratories, Inc., Bionovo, Inc. and Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals.

Another author has consulted for Swiss Precision Diagnostics and received research funding from the North American Menopause Society.

Review Date: 
November 14, 2013
Last Updated:
December 31, 2013