It is a well-known fact that fluctuating hormones are linked with a higher risk of developing mental health illnesses in women. Nevertheless, according to a recent study, women exposed to estrogen for a longer period of time, during their reproductive years, may have a lower risk of suffering from depression during their years of transition to menopause and post-menopause years.
The study titled “Lifelong estradiol exposure and risk of depressive symptoms during the transition to menopause and postmenopause” was published online in the journal Menopause. It focused on estradiol, the main form of estrogen present during a woman’s productive years and involved 1,306 regularly menstruating premenopausal women in the age group of 42 and 52 years. A longitudinal U.S. community-based study, the data for this was collected at baseline and annually for 10 years. Risk factors, such as duration of hormonal birth control pill usage, pregnancies, lactation and duration of estrogen exposure, were also taken into consideration. The study concluded that though all women experienced hormonal fluctuations, not all reported depressive symptoms during their menopausal transition (MT) years.
According to the researchers, the risk of developing depression increased during times of significant estrogen fluctuations, that is, during the MT and the initial postmenopausal years. But, women, who had a longer duration of estrogen exposure, from the first occurrence of menstruation to MT, had significantly lower risk of developing depression during MT and postmenopausal years. It was also seen that while longer use of birth control pills was associated with a lower risk of depression, the number of pregnancies or breastfeeding incidents had no effect on the results.
According to Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director, the Journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), though more vulnerable to depressive symptoms during and after MT years, the study found a higher risk of depression in women with fewer menstrual cycles, earlier menopause or more frequent hot flashes. Citing the importance of earlier detection of depressive symptoms, Dr. Pinkerton added, “Women and their providers need to recognize symptoms of depression, such as mood changes, loss of pleasure, changes in weight or sleep, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, being unable to make decisions, or feeling persistently sad, and take appropriate action.”
Women going through menopause, which is a vulnerable time for most, are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. As menopause involves hormonal changes, a woman’s body may take time to get used to the declining levels of estrogen and progesterone leading to the experiencing of menopausal symptoms like low mood or even depression.
Unpredictable hormone fluctuations combined with a host of other factors such as body image, stress and aging may also cause emotional distress that may result in mood swings and ultimately lead to depression. Though the study is a welcome step in understanding the link between hormones and depression, early detection and prevention of depression are often considered the key to managing depressive symptoms.
A common but highly treatable disorder, depression affects over 17 million American adults annually and women are twice more likely than men to suffer from it. Considered the most significant mental health risk for women, and a leading cause of disability worldwide, younger women and women of childbearing and child rearing age are more vulnerable to developing the disorder.
A leading women’s depression treatment center, Sovereign Health of Arizona provides inpatient treatment to all its patients using evidence-based and trauma-informed care. It is a women only depression rehab facility, where we understand the need for a safe, compassionate and supportive environment for recovery.
In addition to offering mental health treatments, Sovereign Health also offers treatment for substance abuse, co-occurring disorders, and trauma-related disorders. For more information on our holistic mental health treatment programs or to locate our state-of-the-art depression treatment centers near you, call our 24/7 helpline number. Our representatives, who can chat online with you, will be happy to offer further support.