The cost-of-living crisis is making it more difficult for women to manage the menopause, with nearly two in five feeling that financial stress has heightened their symptoms.
Research from the British Nutrition Foundation, published ahead of World Menopause Day on 18 October, found that 37% of women experiencing the menopause are now more stressed about their finances, which had exacerbated some side-effects, while around one in 10 were unable or less able to afford a prescription for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to prevent or reduce the impact of some symptoms.
Eating well is widely thought to help alleviate menopause symptoms, but 22% of those surveyed felt unable or less able to purchase particular foods they felt helped them, while 25% struggled to purchase vitamin supplements.
The British Nutrition Foundation said that ensuring adequate calcium and vitamin D intakes can help maintain bone strength, as the fall in oestrogen during the menopause can result in loss of bone density and increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Exercise is also important, but 14% those surveyed said they could not afford gym membership or exercise classes.
In order to afford what they need, 16% of menopausal women said they were working additional hours or shifts.
The British Nutrition Foundation’s science director Sara Stanner said: “At a time when women want to feel empowered and take control of their health by making diet and lifestyles changes to manage or cope with their menopausal symptoms, it is upsetting that the cost-of living crisis is making this more challenging.
“As we know that the years leading up to the menopause and beyond are critical for bone health, it is important women are able to access plenty of calcium rich foods such as dairy foods like milk and yogurt, and green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale to protect against osteoporosis in later life. They are also advised to consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement containing 10 mcg during the autumn and winter months.”
Sara Moger, CEO of the British Menopause Society, said: “General awareness among women of how diet and lifestyle choices can impact and help them cope with the symptoms of menopause is growing. There is now more evidence-based advice widely available so that women are able to self-help and manage better.
“It is encouraging to see that 44% would visit their GP or other healthcare professionals for advice and a similar number (43%) would seek advice from the NHS, including the NHS website.”
The survey involved 2,342 people and took place in late September to early October.
Meanwhile, a health insurer has said workplace menopause education should be offered to all employees, not just those experiencing symptoms.
It especially should be offered to employees that work overseas, where different cultures also need to be taken into account, said Debra Clark, head of specialist consulting at Towergate Health & Protection.
“Everyone will be impacted by the menopause at some point in their working lives, either going through it, or knowing someone going through it. So it’s vital that education and awareness isn’t only directed at people going through menopause, it must also be inclusive of all genders and all ages,” she said.
“Employers are in a unique position to be able to offer information and support on menopause and its impact. The positive effects of greater education will help the individuals involved, their families, colleagues, as well as the business itself.”
Towergate’s head of international, Sarah Dennis, said many countries do not recognise menopause as a workplace issue, so international employers should be actively supporting staff.
“Menopause support for international staff must be particularly well communicated as there are so many more barriers to uptake, given geographical and cultural distances and differences. With some cultures being much more hesitant to discuss the issues, workplace education has an even greater role to play on a global basis,” she said.
“Simple options to improve the work environment include providing desk fans, allowing uniform adjustments, and the freedom to take breaks as required. This may all seem obvious in the UK but may not be so commonplace in other countries.”