Major depression during and after the menopausal transition: Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN)

Psychol Med. 2011 Sep;41(9):1879-88. doi: 10.1017/S003329171100016X. Epub 2011 Feb 9.


Background: It is unclear whether risk for major depression during the menopausal transition or immediately thereafter is increased relative to pre-menopause. We aimed to examine whether the odds of experiencing major depression were greater when women were peri- or post-menopausal compared to when they were pre-menopausal, independent of a history of major depression at study entry and annual measures of vasomotor symptoms (VMS), serum levels of, or changes in, estradiol (E2), follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) or testosterone (T) and relevant confounders.

Method: Participants included the 221 African American and Caucasian women, aged 42-52 years, who were pre-menopausal at entry into the Pittsburgh site of a community-based study of menopause, the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN). We conducted the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders (SCID) to assess diagnoses of lifetime, annual and current major depression at baseline and at annual follow-ups. Psychosocial and health factors, and blood samples for assay of reproductive hormones, were obtained annually.

Results: Women were two to four times more likely to experience a major depressive episode (MDE) when they were peri-menopausal or early post-menopausal. Repeated-measures logistic regression analyses showed that the effect of menopausal status was independent of history of major depression and annually measured upsetting life events, psychotropic medication use, VMS and serum levels of or changes in reproductive hormones. History of major depression was a strong predictor of major depression throughout the study.

Conclusions: The risk of major depression is greater for women during and immediately after the menopausal transition than when they are pre-menopausal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / blood
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hot Flashes / blood
  • Hot Flashes / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Menopause / blood
  • Menopause / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Postmenopause / blood
  • Postmenopause / psychology
  • Premenopause / blood
  • Premenopause / psychology
  • Sweating
  • Testosterone / blood
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Whites / psychology
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Health / statistics & numerical data


  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone