New Study Findings Highlight the High Cost of Ignoring Menopause in the Workplace

A study published on Wednesday by the Mayo Clinic estimates the U.S. economy is losing $26.6 billion a year to medical expenses and loss of productivity due to menopause-related symptoms.

Conducted in 2021, researchers surveyed roughly 5,000 women who are primary care patients at the Mayo Clinic, ages 45 to 60. Roughly, 4,440 of the women were employed at the time of the study. 

“A full 13% of the women we surveyed experienced an adverse work outcome related to menopause symptoms, and about 11% were missing days of work because of these symptoms,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, the study’s lead author and the director of Mayo Clinic Women’s Health, in a news release.

The study did note and include limitations: The majority of participants were white, married, and college-educated. There were some additional racial and ethnic differences noted, but more research is needed, according to Dr. Faubion.

Menopause symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, sleep disturbances, and cognitive difficulties that can adversely impact work outcomes — including absenteeism, lost work productivity, increased direct and indirect medical costs, and opportunities for career advancement, the study found.

According to the CDC, menopause occurs in most women around the ages of 45 to 55 years of age. Women between the ages of 45 and 54 make up 20 percent of the female workforce in the U.S.

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“Many women in midlife are at a time in their lives when they are experiencing career successes and achieving leadership roles,” the report notes. “That women may opt out of employment, and consequently out of the leadership development pipeline, identifies a potentially unrecognized reason for the leaky leadership pipeline and the paucity of women in senior leadership positions.”

And that pipeline is only projected to continue to leak. More female workers are leaving the top ranks of companies at higher rates than ever before. In a 2022 survey of U.S. female workers aged 40 to 55, roughly one-third of participants said they’d think about switching from part-time to full-time work, while 22 percent said they’d consider retiring early. And women of color are disproportionately affected. Black women are nearly three times more likely to report an adverse work outcome than their white counterparts, and Hispanic women report similar rates. 

The bottom line: “Clinicians need to ask women about menopause symptoms and offer guidance and treatment,” Dr. Faubion said, “and employers need to create and implement workplace strategies and policies to help women navigate this universal life transition.”

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