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Menopause linked to new onset of depression

MenopauseApr 05, 06

Women who haven’t previously suffered from depression are at increased risk of developing depressive symptoms around the time they enter menopause, according to two studies appearing in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The transition to menopause is often considered a high-risk period for depressive symptoms, yet scientific evidence supporting this association is lacking, points out one of the research teams, led by Dr. Ellen W. Freeman from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

In an 8-year study, Freeman’s group tracked 231 women who were about to enter menopause, none of whom had any history of depression up to the time they enrolled. The Center for Epidemiological Studies of Depression (CED-D) scale was used to assess depressive symptoms during follow-up.

The probability of a high CES-D score (at least 16) was four-fold greater during the menopausal transition than during the premenopausal phase, the report indicates. Similarly, entering menopause was tied to a more than doubled risk of being diagnosed with a depressive disorder.

In a similar study, Dr. Lee S. Cohen, from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues looked at the impact of the menopausal transition on depressive symptoms in 460 women between 36 and 45 years old with no history of depression. During more than 3 years of follow-up, 134 women remained premenopausal and the remainder entered menopause.

The menopausal group was twice as likely to experience significant depressive symptoms than was the premenopausal group. A slightly higher risk was noted in menopausal women who reported symptoms such as hot flashes.

“Despite the fact that most women do not develop depression during the menopausal transition, the current study suggests that, relative to women who remain premenopausal, similarly aged women who begin the transition to menopause appear to be at an increased risk for first onset of depression even in the absence of a history of depression,” the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Archives of General Psychiatry, April 2006.

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