The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Sexual Orientation Differences in Menopause Timing and Symptoms

VanKim Team

From left: Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson (biostatistics & epidemiology), Nicole VanKim (biostatistics & epidemiology), and Lynnette Leidy Sievert (anthropology)

We aim to understand whether timing of menopause and menopause symptom experiences may vary based on sexual orientation. Few studies have examined this critical window of change among lesbian and bisexual women, despite the fact that they are more likely than heterosexual women to experience risk factors that in turn may increase their risk for younger age of menopause and experiencing more menopause symptoms (such as hot flashes and night sweats). Younger age of menopause increases risk for heart disease and premature mortality, while more menopause symptoms can negatively affect quality of life.

Findings from this initial line of research will be used to inform the development of a larger grant that will explore risk factors that can be targeted with interventions in order to address potential inequities experienced by lesbian and bisexual women. Overall, this work is an important first step in understanding sexual orientation disparities in menopause health, a highly understudied area of women's health and lesbian and bisexual women's health in particular. This work can help us more effectively prioritize and develop public health, health care, and research efforts to address disparities. The project team includes PhD students Nicole Fields (public health) and Serena Houghton (biostatistics & epidemiology).