Menopausal symptoms: A Cross Cultural Perspective

Author

Professor Fredi Kronenberg, The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine & Professor of Clinical Physiology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, USA

Proceeding

1st International Conference & Exhibition on Women's Health & Asian Traditional (WHAT) Medicine

Date

23/8/2005

Keyword

women, menopausal symptoms, traditional/complementary/alternative medicines, modern medicine, diet, lifestyle

Abstract

There have been many cross-cultural studies of the symptoms experienced by women at midlife as they pass through the hormonal transition from regular cyclicity through the end of that cyclicity and into menopausal years.  Studies have sought to examine the commonalities and differences in the experience of symptoms at and around menopause primarily through the use of symptom questionnaires and in-depth interviews.  The goal has been to determine whether there is a uniform or universal constellation of symptoms and to what extent they can be attributed to the changing levels of hormones as women pass through menopause, or to other biological, social, or cultural influences, including particularly, diet, and lifestyle. Questionnaires used in a variety of countries often have been patterned on those used in the United States and other Western countries.  However, more recently, there has been an increasingly nuanced examination of the terminology used by women to express their physiological and psychological symptoms, and whether or not these are bothersome. Linguistic nuances in describing symptoms abound in different countries/cultures.  And numerous methodological differences among studies make it difficult to assess what is real variation in menopausal experiences.  What is becoming clearer is that there is a complex interaction among biological, cultural and environmental variables and that these change over time both within and between geographic locations and ethnic groups. Similarly, whether and how menopausal symptoms are treated – with traditional/complementary/alternative (TCAM) medicines and/or Western biomedicine, is also complex, and differences exist among different groups within a country and among the same groups when they move to different countries. Culturally and socio-economically mediated factors impact the healthcare choices of women, and may have more impact on one group than another in terms of the likelihood of using TCAM an/or allopathic services in general or for specific health conditions. As globalization brings an attitude of medicalization of menopause from Western countries to others, and as people travel to new countries, bringing their medical conceptions and traditions of treatment with them, how and to what extent attitudes change and medical traditions continue to be used, impacts the expression of menopausal symptoms, the treatments chosen, and, thus, health.  The ever-changing landscape presents a challenge at the same time as we become more sophisticated in our analysis.