Menopause on the Worldwide Stage
As a biological event for women around the world, menopause itself is universal. However, research shows that the symptoms are not! Research suggests:
– American women report symptoms for 10 years.
– Asian origin women report symptoms for a maximum of 5 years.
– Caucasians report symptoms for between 5 and 10 years.
– Norwegians average just 4 years!
In the USA & UK, women (and the media) commonly associate menopause with symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. In India most women noted none of the symptoms that we do in the UK. Japanese women during menopause most commonly suffer shoulder stiffness, with hot flashes being very rare. In a study in Hong Kong, researchers found that joint and muscle problems were the most common symptoms. In all of these studies done outside of the UK and America, women reported symptoms as “mild.”
Some researchers suggest that lifestyle may play a bigger role than previously thought. We know that hormone levels are largely influenced by how we eat, sleep and exercise, and many studies have shown a direct relationship between diet and menopause symptoms. Is it lifestyle, then, that makes menopause such a different experience for women around the world?
Another idea is that the culture a woman finds herself in before, during, and after menopause plays a determining factor. In our youth-idolizing Western culture, menopause can seem like an ending. In many cultures, it’s a time of new respect and freedom for women.
A study reported that Mayan women, although experiencing some uncomfortable symptoms, looked forward to menopause, as it provided newfound freedom and status. In India, women who were veiled and secluded before menopause, could now come downstairs from their women’s quarters to where the men talked and drank home brew and could publicly visit and joke with men after menopause.
Most female mammals die off once they are no longer fertile. Humans and whales don’t, thankfully! So why not? The most popular theory is the “Grandmother Theory”.
The wise grandma contributes to her genetic legacy by living on to help her grandchildren survive and thrive, sharing wisdom, babysitting, passing on tribal tradition and coping mechanisms used to survive through floods, famine & other hardships. She devotes time to the tribe. If she was still fertile, she would be too busy looking after her own! Whales do this, the grandma whales look after the pod and live into their 90s, leading the pod to the best fishing areas! Mothers breed, grandmothers feed.
The Menopause Debate
Do we experience more symptoms of menopause because of the impact of our Western lifestyle choices and stress levels? If so, we can easily improve on these areas by reducing stress levels and making positive lifestyle changes.
Do we live in a culture where it’s sometimes treated as a “disease,” rather than the transformative and elevating experience it is in other cultures? If so, changing our perspective and focusing on the positives will help.