In the News: Work related stress and long hours can bring an earlier menopause

Although the average age in the U.K. for the menopause – defined as the time when periods have stopped for 12 months – is 52, 1 percent of British women go through it before they reach 40.

Research carried out at Versailles University which looked at the health and lifestyle of more than 1,500 women in their 50s suggests that working long hours in a stressful job can hasten the onset of the menopause by at least a year. Experts believe that the strain of long hours or a demanding job can affect a woman’s reproductive health.

The Versailles study found that those who worked at least 48 hours a week were more likely than those doing shorter hours to go through the menopause before the average age of 52. For those with stressful jobs in which they felt constant pressure to rush, do several things at once and were frequently interrupted when carrying out tasks, menopause tended to hit at 51. In women who were suffering from depression, the effects of long working days were even greater. They were twice as likely to go through the menopause before they reached 52.

This warning comes just a few weeks after another study showed that pregnant women who work for long hours increase their risk of miscarriage. The study of more than 7,000 expectant nurses found that those who worked more than 40 hours a week were 50 percent more likely to miscarry. Additional research indicates that work related stress can also lead to irregular periods or periods stopping earlier than normal. On the other hand a good education and having a less stressful repetitive job delayed the onset of the menopause.

All these findings come as more and more women delay motherhood, with almost half of the 720,000 births each year in Britain being to women aged 30-plus. Smoking has also been found to have a big effect, with those who smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day going through the menopause at the age of 50, according to a recent report in the American Journal of Epidemiology. It is thought that long hours and stress affect levels of hormones key to a woman’s reproductive cycle, while smoking causes the eggs to deteriorate more quickly than normal. Genetics also play a large role in the timing of the menopause, with many women experiencing it at a similar age to their mother and sisters.

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