Impact of a premature menopause on cognitive function in later life

BJOG. 2014 Dec;121(13):1729-39. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.12828. Epub 2014 May 7.


Objective: To determine whether premature menopause (≤40 years) can have long-lasting effects on later-life cognition and investigate whether this association varies depending on the type of menopause and use of hormone treatment (HT).

Design: Population-based cohort study.

Setting: The French Three-City Study.

Population: Four thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight women aged at least 65 years.

Methods: Multivariable-adjusted logistic regression models were used to determine the association between age at menopause, type of menopause (surgical, natural), and the use of menopausal HT and later-life cognitive function.

Main outcome measures: Performance on a cognitive test battery (at baseline and over 7 years) and clinical dementia diagnosis.

Results: Menopause at or before the age of 40 years, both premature bilateral ovariectomy and premature ovarian failure (non-surgical loss of ovarian function), was associated with worse verbal fluency (OR 1.56, 95%CI 1.12-1.87, P=0.004) and visual memory (OR 1.39, 95%CI 1.09-1.77, P=0.007) in later life. HT at the time of premature menopause appeared beneficial for later-life visual memory but increased the risk of poor verbal fluency. Type of menopause was not significantly associated with cognitive function. Premature menopause was associated with a 30% increased risk of decline in psychomotor speed and global cognitive function over 7 years.

Conclusion: Both premature surgical menopause and premature ovarian failure were associated with long-term negative effects on cognitive function, which are not entirely offset by menopausal HT. In terms of surgical menopause, these results suggest that the potential long-term effects on cognitive function should form part of the risk/benefit ratio when considering ovariectomy in younger women.

Keywords: Cognition; dementia; hormone treatment; ovariectomy; premature menopause.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition*
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Estradiol / therapeutic use
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy / psychology
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Estrogens / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Menopause / psychology
  • Menopause, Premature / psychology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Ovariectomy / psychology
  • Ovariectomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / epidemiology*
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / psychology
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Risk Factors
  • Transdermal Patch


  • Estrogens
  • Estradiol