Does everyday discrimination account for the increased risk of vasomotor symptoms in Black women?: the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN)

Menopause. 2024 Jun 1;31(6):484-493. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000002357. Epub 2024 Apr 9.


Objectives: Vasomotor symptoms (VMS), including hot flashes and night sweats, are hallmark symptoms of the menopause transition. Previous research has documented greater frequency, duration, and severity of VMS in Black women compared with women from other racial/ethnic groups, even after accounting for other factors. This analysis examined the association between discrimination and VMS and the extent to which discrimination accounts for the disproportionate burden of VMS in Black women.

Methods: Using available discrimination and VMS data from the SWAN cohort study (n = 2,377, 48% White, 32% Black, 6% Japanese, 4% Chinese, and 9% Hispanic women) followed approximately yearly in midlife from premenopause (42-52 y) through postmenopause (~20 y), we assessed concurrent associations between discrimination and VMS frequency in the past 2 weeks using weighted generalized mixed models. We also assessed associations between chronic discrimination across first four visits and VMS trajectories from premenopause to postmenopause using weighted multinomial logistic regression. Models were adjusted for known risk factors for VMS.

Results: Higher levels of discrimination were associated with concurrent reporting of any (odds ratio [OR], 1.57 [1.31-1.89]) and frequent (≥6 d) VMS (OR, 1.55 [1.21-1.99]). After adjustment, associations remained significant for any (OR, 1.30 [1.09-1.54]) but not frequent VMS. For any VMS trajectories, chronic discrimination was associated with "continuously high" (OR, 1.69 [1.03-2.77]) and "high pre-FMP-decline post-FMP" (OR, 1.70 [1.01-2.88]) versus "FMP-onset low" trajectories. After adjusting for discrimination, odds of reporting any, frequent, and of being in the "continuously high" any VMS trajectory remained elevated for Black versus White women.

Conclusions: Discrimination is associated with greater concurrent risk of any (but not frequent) VMS, and chronic discrimination is associated with a continuously high reporting of any VMS over time, independent of known risk factors. Adjusting for discrimination attenuates but does not eliminate the increased risk of VMS for Black women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asian / statistics & numerical data
  • Black or African American* / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Hot Flashes* / epidemiology
  • Hot Flashes* / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Menopause* / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause / physiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sweating
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vasomotor System / physiopathology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Health*