Women on the Verge: Menopause Symptoms in the Workplace

Women on the Verge: Menopause Symptoms in the Workplace

By Robin E. Kobayashi, JD, LexisNexis Legal & Professional Operations
When it comes to employee wellness and costs borne by employers, studies tend to focus on the “big three”: cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
But no one—well, at least in our workers’ comp community—wants to talk much about menopause symptoms in the workplace. Why? Menopause symptoms are “underrecognized as a disruptive health condition” because we tend to view it as a normal part of the aging process (see Kleinman et al.).
In the first study of its kind, the team of Kleinman et al. quantified the direct costs (medical, pharmacy) and indirect costs (sick leave, short and long term disability, workers’ compensation, work absence, loss of work productivity, turnover rate) of menopause symptoms and the economic burden on employers. Some key points of the Kleinman study, which was published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Medicine, are summarized below.
U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics indicate that approximately two million women in the U.S. will reach the age of menopause onset each year for the next 10 years. Currently, over 26.5 million women employed in the U.S. are between 45 and 64 years of age, of which 15 to 20 million experience menopause symptoms.
Menopause symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, depression, night sweats, hot flashes, low self-rated health, and sexual difficulties. (BTW: There’s also a study linking mood and hot flashes to memory problems during menopause: the more severe the menopause symptoms, the more significant the brain fog.)
The Kleinman study compared menopause symptoms of 17,322 working women who were “DMS” (diagnosed with menopause symptoms) and 17,322 working women without DMS (the control group). The results were eye popping. DMS working women had significantly higher conditions of major depression, other depression, anxiety, insomnia, and osteoporosis, particularly during the ages of 40 through 59, than the working women in the control group.
So what does all this mean in terms of employer costs and employee productivity?
According to the Kleinman study, the DMS working women had significantly higher medical costs ($4315 v. $2972), prescription drug costs ($1366 v. $908), sick leave ($647 v. $599), and workers’ compensation ($175 v. $134) than the working women in the control group. The study further found that productivity rates were significantly lower for DMS working women (i.e., 11% to 12%), thereby demonstrating a direct impact of menopausal symptoms on work output.
The Kleinman study concludes that while both physicians and employers should assist women in managing menopausal symptoms, further study of treating options (hormone therapy, alternative treatments) is needed.
Resources:
Kleinman, NL et al., Direct and Indirect Costs of Women Diagnosed With Menopause Symptoms, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vol. 55 No. 4, pp. 465-470 (April 2013).
Weber, MT et al., Reconciling subjective memory complaints with objective memory performance in the menopausal transition, Menopause, Vol. 19, Issue 7, pp. 735-741 (July 2012).
Recommended Reading:
BLS Reports: Women in the Labor Force: A Databook, Report 1040, February 2013.
The Road to Menopause (informational site with humor).

© Copyright 2013 LexisNexis. All rights reserved.

_______________________________________________________________ 

Purchase at the LexisNexis Store. Available in print and ebook.