Attitudes, Knowledge, Expectations and Experiences of Menopause in Relation to Women’s Age, Menopausal Status and Timing

by Nicole B. Haverstock

Menopause is a natural event that every woman experiences as a result of normative aging and yet, it is considered the most negative stereotype of the aging process in developed countries. Such ageist attitudes may have detrimental effects on women and serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. With more women moving into middle adulthood due to the aging baby boom cohorts, menopause is becoming an increasingly important area of investigation. The focus of this study was to examine attitudes toward menopause, knowledge of menopause and expectations or experiences of menopause among women of various ages, menopausal statuses and timing of menopause. Women who had a surgical/artificial menopause were also examined.

Participants (N = 329) completed either the paper or online version of the survey, consisting of the following questionnaires: Attitudes-Toward-Menopause Checklist (adapted from Neugarten, Wood, Kraines & Loomis, 1963); Knowledge of Menopause and Expectations or Experiences of Menopause, which were both developed for a similar study at the University of Valencia (adapted from Cordoba, 2010; Orto, 2004); and the Menopause-Specific Quality of Life questionnaire (adapted from Hilditch & Lewis, 1992). University students, faculty and staff, health care professionals and a convenience sample of women from Brandon and the surrounding area participated. These women ranged in age from 18 to 83 years, with an average age of 38.45 years. The average ages of both natural and surgical/artificial menopause were extremely close: 47.44 and 47.07 years, respectively.

Emerging adults had more negative expectations about the frequency and intensity of symptoms than younger adults, and were also more likely than other age groups to feel that menopause will negatively affect their femininity, perceive the end of fertility negatively and agree that menopause is a sign of old age. These findings suggest that negative stereotypes, ageism and youthful ideals persist, and may reflect the distinctiveness of emerging adults as a group. These women are in the process of identity development and are focusing primarily on their aspiring career and relationships, whereas other age groups are in different life stages and most have graduated from post-secondary schooling, are working in professional occupations and married with children. Emerging adults and middle-aged women were more knowledgeable than younger adults and older women, which may reflect more discussion of women and aging in university courses, as well as middle-aged women more likely being menopausal and seeking information. Premenopausal women (i.e., experiencing regular menstrual periods; does not include ages 30 and below) held more negative attitudes toward menopause than postmenopausal women (i.e., no menstrual periods for at least 12 months). In general, women who had a premature menopause (i.e., occurring at or before the age of 40 years) did not significantly differ from women who had a normative menopause, and women who had a surgical/artificial menopause did not significantly differ from women who had a natural menopause. Directions for further research and intervention are discussed.