Background: Dysmenorrhea is the leading cause of short-term school absenteeism. It is associated with a negative impact on social, academic, and sports activities of many female adolescents. Dysmenorrhea has not previously been described among Hispanic adolescents, the fastest growing minority group in the United States.
Objective: To determine the prevalence of dysmenorrhea among Hispanic female adolescents; its impact on academic performance, school attendance, and sports and social activities; and its management.
Participants and methods: A total of 706 Hispanic female adolescents, in grades 9 through 12, completed a 31-item questionnaire about the presence, duration, severity, treatment, and limitations of dysmenorrhea at a local urban high school.
Results: Among participants who had had a period in the previous 3 months, 85% reported dysmenorrhea. Of these, 38% reported missing school due to dysmenorrhea during the 3 months prior to the survey and 33% reported missing individual classes. Activities affected by dysmenorrhea included class concentration (59%), sports (51%), class participation (50%), socialization (46%), homework (35%), test-taking skills (36%), and grades (29%). Treatments taken for dysmenorrhea included rest (58%), medications (52%), heating pad (26%), tea (20%), exercise (15%), and herbs (7%). Fourteen percent consulted a physician and 49% saw a school nurse for help with their symptoms. Menstrual pain was significantly associated with school absenteeism and decreased academic performance, sports participation, and socialization with peers (P<.01).
Conclusions: Dysmenorrhea is highly prevalent among Hispanic adolescents and is related to school absenteeism and limitations on social, academic, and sports activities. Given that most adolescents do not seek medical advice for dysmenorrhea, health care providers should screen routinely for dysmenorrhea and offer treatment. As dysmenorrhea reportedly affects school performance and attendance, school administrators may have a vested interest in providing health education on this topic to their students. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154:1226-1229.