Background: Relatively little is known about the association between menopause and health-related quality of life (HRQL) across ethnic groups.
Objectives: To examine the association between HRQL and early perimenopause and ethnicity, adjusting for health, lifestyle, psychosocial, and sociodemographic factors.
Research design: Questionnaires were administered to pre- and early perimenopausal women.
Subjects: We studied a cohort of 3302 black, Chinese, Hispanic, Japanese, and white women aged 42 to 52 years from the multisite Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN).
Measures: We measured HRQL, menstrual regularity, and a variety of covariates. HRQL was assessed with 5 subscales from the Short Form-36; impaired functioning was defined as being in the 25% most impaired on a subscale.
Results: In unadjusted, but not adjusted, analyses, significantly more early perimenopausal women, as compared with premenopausal women, were classified as having impaired functioning on each of the 5 subscales. For 4 of the subscales, the effect of menopausal status was explained by menopause-related symptoms. There were significant ethnic group differences across all 5 subscales in unadjusted analyses. Ethnicity was no longer significant for the Vitality or Role-Emotional subscales when adjusted for health variables or for the Role-Physical subscale when analyses were adjusted for socioeconomic status, health, lifestyle, or social circumstances. Ethnicity remained significant for the Bodily Pain and Social Functioning subscales, even in adjusted analyses.
Conclusions: Early perimenopause is not associated with impaired functioning when adjusted for symptoms. Significant ethnic differences in HRQL exist. Some, but not all, differences can be explained by differences in health, lifestyle, and social circumstances.