Women who experience or witness abuse, to themselves or to others, can have their menopause induced earlier, and accelerate their reproductive ageing
Exposure to violence can have negative effects on women’s mental and physical health, and now research reveals its connection with the pace of reproductive ageing.
This research is relevant also to the focus of the COVID pandemic, as women’s violence exposure has been elevated in rates of intimate partner violence and child abuse.
The new study highlights that a woman’s collective violence exposure, both of her own abuse and that of her child, can speed up her reproductive ageing and induce an earlier age of menopause. Early menopause, particularly before age 45, is also associated with increased risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, and premature death.
Intergenerational violence exposure can impact maternal age of menopause
Published in Menopause, researchers find that experiences of violence can be damaging to women, where they are believed to work through the disruption of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the body’s response to stress.
Though other studies have been formerly limited to focusing on the effect of a woman’s own abuse, this new study analyses intergenerational violence exposure and its effect on the age of menopause.
Evaluating how both maternal and child violence exposures will independently accelerate maternal menopause timing, the study rationalised that a mother’s own childhood physical abuse and her child’s sexual abuse were both associated with an earlier age of menopause.
In particular, mothers who were physically abused in childhood and have a child who experienced regular sexual abuse reached menopause 8.78 years earlier than mothers without a history of personal abuse or abuse of their child.
Childhood sexual and physical abuse is also associated with earlier menarche
Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director, said: “This study underscores the devastating effect of exposure to violence that is known to affect subsequent generations.
“The health-related burden of intergenerational violence is substantial and includes the possibility of early onset menopause and the associated potential long-term adverse health outcomes.
“Addressing this issue will require involvement of multiple sectors and necessitate social change, as well as updated policies and education.”