Menopause Zeitgeist: Social Taboos and Surprising Gaps in Support
Largest-ever menopause survey shows women not getting needed support, significant impact on quality of life, and a thirst to normalize the discussion
SEATTLE DECEMBER 17, 2019
Menopause health concerns of fatigue, mood changes, and sleep disturbances lead the list of challenges with alarming impact on quality of life, but 94 percent of women don’t get enough support to manage side-effects, a Gennev (https://gennev.com) survey found. Gennev, a first-of-its-kind online clinic for women in menopause, today announced the first annual Menopause Zeitgeist, the largest survey of its kind with results from more than 6,000 women. The Menopause Zeitgeist captures the top perimenopause and post-menopause symptoms women faced in 2019 — and what women want in 2020.
With three of America’s most prominent women celebrities — Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, and Gwen Stefani — making 50 look like the new 30, 2019 was a year of squashing stereotypes attached to women growing older. It was also the year that 36 female CEOs were in the Fortune 500 and the number of women in political positions continued to skyrocket. And many of these record-breaking women are in peri- or post-menopause.
In a similar spirit of women thriving, the Menopause Clinic Gennev survey results showed that women report aging into and out of the menopause transition as happier (72 percent), physically stronger (57 percent), more confident (69 percent) and more in control of their career (54 percent) compared to their decade-younger self. However, survey results also captured 10 areas where menopause symptoms had a moderate to very high impact on their quality life. Sadly, even though facing these challenges and more, only 33 percent of women felt fully supported by their significant other or medical professionals (46 percent), yet more did find support in other women like sisters, girlfriends and family (58 percent) and online communities of like-minded women (50 percent).
"Menopause is natural and normal, but a woman can almost feel like she’s going crazy when doctors or those close to them are dismissive of midlife complaints, of their pain, or are not well-informed about menopause,” said Dr. Rebecca Dunsmoor-Su, OB/GYN, North American Menopause Society (NAMS)-certified practitioner, and chief medical officer at Gennev. “We want women and all those who support them to feel more prepared for this life stage, and make sure they have someone and somewhere they can go to understand what’s happening with their bodies and to feel supported.”
What Women Want in 2020: Normalize the Menopause Discussion In 2020, women are clearly ready to demonstrate that menopause isn’t some sort of expiration date, but rather a kickoff to the second phase of life with 66 percent saying they wanted to normalize the discussion. In fact, 96 percent have placed a higher priority on their health and wellness compared to their decade-younger self. And 64 percent state that they have more disposable income today than they did 10 years ago.
But social stigmas around taboo subjects can be tough to overcome on your own: For example, only 1 in 5 women consistently turn to their spouse or partner for support. Also, women are less comfortable talking about things like vaginal concerns, painful sex, and lack of labido compared to other topics. Women felt the best way spouses and partners can support them in 2020 is to not take their menopause symptoms — like irritability — personally (46 percent), to get more educated about menopause (43 percent), and to be patient (38 percent).
Women also identified several challenges they face in 2020, with balancing work and their personal life being the most challenging (44 percent), followed by prioritizing self-care (38 percent). Gennev will release its full crowdsourced 2020 Guide to Menopause in January.
What Are the Symptoms Women Deal with on Either Side of the Menopause Marker Though used to describe the entire experience, “menopause” is technically just one day: the 1-year anniversary of a woman’s last period. While menopause generally occurs naturally around age 51, many women experience physical changes in the 5-10 years prior, a stage called “perimenopause.” Following that one-year anniversary of her last period, she’s “post-menopausal.”
More than 6,000 Gennev Menopause Assessment results captured the top perimenopause symptoms in 2019:
- 85% Fatigue (66% QoL)
- 80% Mood changes (69% QoL. Top areas: irritability 91%, anxiety 79%, depression 62%)
- 78% Sleep disturbances (58% QoL)
- 73% Weight changes (31% QoL. Top area: weight gain 41%)
- 72% Menstrual issues (48% QoL)
- 68% Night sweats (49% QoL)
- 66% Hot flashes (48% QoL)
- 64% Musculoskeletal changes (50% QoL. Top area: joint stiffness 89%)
- 62% Loss of libido (29% QoL)
- 60% Gastrointestinal changes (46% QoL. Top area: gas or bloating 89%)
- 56% Neurological concerns (Top area: brain fog 96%)
- 48% Vaginal symptoms (Top area: pain with intercourse 46%)
- 45% Urinary symptoms (Top area: stress incontinence 72%)
- 38% Skin/hair changes (Top area: skin sagging 54%, facial hair 51%)
- 23% Cardiovascular conditions
- 16% Bone health
In post-menopause, women reported experiencing much of the same symptoms, but reported a decrease in mood changes (-9 percent) and an increase in five areas:
- Skin and hair change symptoms (87 percent increase)
- Vaginal symptoms (23% increase) causing challenges like painful sex (41% increase)
- Hot flashes (17% increase)
- Loss of libido (16% increase)
- Musculoskeletal changes (13% increase)
Surprisingly, women on both sides of menopause were less concerned about neurological symptoms like dementia and Alzheimer's or cardiovascular concerns, even though heart disease is the #1 killer of women and women get Alzheimer’s at twice the rate of men. Also surprising, at the bottom of the list of concerns was bone health, even though it is estimated that 8 million women have osteoporosis and 27.3 million women suffer from low bone density.
“Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. workforce and have demonstrated that they are thriving during the universal phenomenon of menopause, but they are also suffering with debilitating physical and mental symptoms,” said Jill Angelo, CEO and co-founder of Gennev. “Our goal in releasing this data is to reduce the stigma around menopause, help women understand that they are not alone, and to create support systems at home, work, and in healthcare.
Click to read the Gennev Menopause Zeitgeist blog post. Take the Gennev Menopause assessment here to automatically get a copy of the 2020 Guide to Menopause in January.
About Gennev Gennev is the first-of-its-kind online clinic for women in menopause. The company's mission is to empower every woman to take control of her health in the second half of life. Founded by former Microsoft executive Jill Angelo and former Neutrogena executive Jacqui Brandwynne, Gennev provides telemedicine with menopause-certified OB/GYNs, on-demand health coaching with registered dietitians, health and wellness products, community, and free education. Thousands of women globally have completed the Gennev Menopause Assessment to understand where they are in the journey and receive recommended health and wellness solutions. For more information, visit https://gennev.com.