Women in the workplace have historically and disproportionately been obliged to take time off work to care for young or sick children, aging family members and pregnancy leave. But what has not been accounted for until now, is the time women have been forced to take off from their paid work because of menopausal symptoms. A new Mayo Clinic study estimates women lose an average of $1.8 billion in work time each year in the United States alone due to menopause-related symptoms in addition to the impact menopause has on their quality of life.
According to a recent Mayo Clinic News Network post, hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, sleep disturbances, joint aches and cognitive problems affect millions of women in their menopausal years. Menopause – the cessation of menstruation after a full year, typically occurs around age 52 – an age when women are also in their prime working and earning years. Menopausal symptoms directly affect worker productivity, absenteeism, and medical costs, and women may lose career advancement opportunities due to these challenges.
The study included more than 5,200 women aged 45 to 60 who received primary care at the Mayo Clinic; of those 4,440 were currently employed. The findings of the study highlight the need for improved treatment of menopausal symptoms and a more supportive workplace environment. The study showed that of the women surveyed, 13.4 percent reported at least one adverse work outcome due to menopause symptoms and 485 women said they missed one or more days of work the previous year due to symptoms.
Women often avoid discussing their menopausal symptoms in the workplace fearing bias, discrimination and stigmatization. Because menopause has long been a taboo subject, especially for working women, female employees may be reluctant to discuss their issues with their managers. More needs to be done to educate leaders and help support female employees in managing their menopausal health care needs and create and implement workplace strategies.