Objective: To develop a model to predict the perceived severity of hot flashes (HF) and night sweats (NS) in symptomatic middle-aged women.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of a community-based sample of 243 women with vasomotor symptoms. Menopausal status was ascertained using the 'Stages of Reproductive Aging Workshop' criteria. Women's 'perceived control' over their symptoms was measured by a validated Portuguese version of the Perceived Control over Hot Flushes Index. Structural equation modelling was employed to construct a causal model of self-reported severity of both HF and NS, using a set of 20 variables: age, marital status, parity, professional status, educational level, family annual income, recent diseases and psychological problems, medical help-seeking behaviour to manage menopausal symptoms, use of hormone therapy and herbal/soy products, menopause status, intake of alcohol, coffee and hot beverages, smoking, physical exercise, body mass index and perceived control.
Results: Significant predictors of perceived severity were the use of hormone therapy for both HF (β=-.245; p=.022) and NS (β=-.298; p=.008), coffee intake for both HF (β=-.234; p=.039) and NS (β=-.258; p=.029) and perceived control for both HF (β=-1.0; p<.001) and NS (β=-1.0; p<.001). The variables explained respectively 67% and 72% of the variability in the perceived severity of HF and NS. Women with high perceived control had a significantly lower frequency (t(235)=2.022; p=.044) and intensity of HF (t(217)=3.582; p<.001); similarly, participants with high perceived control presented a lower frequency (t(235)=3.267; p<.001) and intensity (t(210)=3.376; p<.001) of NS.
Conclusion: Perceived control was the strongest predictor of the self-reported severity of both HF and NS. Other causal predictors were hormone therapy and caffeine intake. All three were associated with less severe vasomotor symptoms.
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