To determine the average age at the onset of menopause and to investigate menopausal symptoms in women in a metropolitan region in Southeastern Brazil.
A descriptive, exploratory, cross-sectional study was conducted with 749 women (a population-based household survey). The dependent variable was the intensity of menopausal symptoms assessed by th Menopause Rating Scale (MRS). The independent variables were sociodemographic data, health-related habits and problems, self-perception of health, and gynecological background. Statistical analysis was carried out by the χ2 test and Poisson regression using the backward selection criteria.
The mean age of the women was 52.5 (±4.4) years. With regard to menopausal status, 16% were premenopausal, 16% perimenopausal and 68% postmenopausal. The mean age at the onset of menopause was 46.5 (±5.8) years. The intensity of menopausal symptoms was defined according to the median MRS score and was considered severe for values above 8. Depression/anxiety (PR=1.8; 95%CI 1.5-2.2; p<0.01), rheumatic diseases (PR 1.5; 95%CI 1.2-1.7; p<0.01), self-perception of health as fair/poor/very poor (PR 1.4; 95% CI 1.2-1.7; p<0.01), history of abortion (PR 1.3; 95%CI 1.1-1.4; p<0.01), current or previous treatment for menopausal symptoms (PR 1.2; 95%CI 1.1-1.4; p<0.01), peri- or postmenopausal status (PR 1.4; 95%CI 1.1-1.7; p<0.01), number of normal deliveries >1 (PR 1.2; 95%CI 1.02-1.4; p<0.01) and asthma (PR 1.2; 95%CI 1.01-1.4; p<0.01) were associated with more severe menopausal symptoms. Older age (PR 0.96; 95%CI 0.96-0.97; p<0.01) was associated with less severe symptoms.
The severity of menopausal symptoms was related to a wild range of factors, especially presence of chronic diseases, a larger number of pregnancies, use of hormone therapy, and worse self-rated health. A better understanding of these factors can help to reduce the impact of symptoms on quality of life, and to identify groups of women who are likely to need more care during and beyond menopause.