A universal menopausal syndrome?

Am J Med. 2005 Dec 19:118 Suppl 12B:37-46. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2005.09.057.


A variety of symptoms are reported frequently as being part of a menopausal syndrome. These include hot flashes, night sweats, menstrual irregularities, vaginal dryness, depression, nervous tension, palpitations, headaches, insomnia, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and dizzy spells. The question of whether and how symptoms occur together is important for women who want to know which symptoms can be attributed to menopause and which to aging generally or to other physical or psychosocial factors. To address this question, the present article examines the following avenues of research: (1) the clustering or grouping of symptoms; (2) the temporal association of different symptoms with stages of the menopausal transition; (3) the consistency of symptom reporting across cultures, race, and ethnicity; and (4) the consistency of risk factors for symptoms. Results of the factor analysis studies do not support a single syndrome consisting of menopausal and psychological or somatic symptoms. The prevalence of symptom reporting across the transition also argues against a menopausal syndrome because vasomotor symptoms follow a unique pattern that differs from that of other symptoms. Cross-cultural differences suggest that symptom reporting is not universal. Finally, although there is some overlap in risk factors for symptoms, menopausal status is more consistently related to vasomotor symptoms than to psychological or physical ones. Results of these investigations all argue against a universal menopausal syndrome. Future research should focus on how symptoms are interrelated, what factors are uniquely related to vasomotor symptoms, and identifying whether there is a subgroup of women who are more likely to report symptoms.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference, NIH
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menopause* / physiology
  • Menopause* / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Syndrome