Menopause Affects Japanese Women Less Than Westerners

July 23, 1998

Japanese women experience far fewer difficulties with menopause than their North American counterparts, new research shows. Most notably, reports of symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats are significantly lower among a study group of Japanese women than among comparative samples of American and Canadian women.

In the July-August issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, medical anthropologist Margaret Lock, PhD, of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, presents findings based on a decade of research on menopause and aging in Japan. Dr. Lock contends that biological and cultural variables act in concert to produce these marked differences in the way Japanese women and their North American counterparts experience menopause.

She further states: "Together with other cross-cultural research, these data indicate that postmenopausal life is a complex biosocial process, one in which declining estrogen levels are but one factor among numerous others. Menopause should not be conceptualized as simply an invariant biological transformation with individual differences due solely to psychological and cultural variation."

The cross-cultural survey was conducted with a sample of more than 1,200 Japanese women aged 45-55. These data were statistically comparable with samples of over 8,000 Massachusetts women and 1,300 Manitoban women. Open-ended interviews were conducted in Japanese with more than 100 of the sampled women, and interviews were also conducted with gynecologists, counselors, and others.

Dr. Lock concludes, "The complementary quantitative and qualitative findings, when considered together with the greater longevity and the lower incidence of heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast cancer characteristic of female aging in Japan, suggest that further research is needed to discover what it is that protects women from distress at menopause and promotes healthy aging."

Psychosomatic Medicine is the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychosomatic Society, published bimonthly. For information about the journal, contact Joel E. Dimsdale, MD, editor-in-chief, at (619) 543-5468.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health http://www.cfah.org. For information about the Center, contact Richard Hébert, rhebert@cfah.org, (202) 387-2829.
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Center for Advancing Health

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