A majority of women experience premenstrual mood swings and anxiety, making it a “key public health issue globally,” a new study finds.
Researchers found that 64% of women experience these symptoms, which disrupt their daily lives.
“Our study demonstrates that premenstrual mood symptoms are incredibly common worldwide,” said senior study author Dr. Jennifer Payne, director of the Reproductive Psychiatry Research Program at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “More important, a majority of women reported that their premenstrual symptoms interfered with their everyday life at least some of the time.”
For the study, the researchers analyzed more than 238,000 survey responses from women aged 18 to 55 in 140 countries using an app called Flo, which helps women track their menstrual cycle, mood and physical symptoms.
Just over 85% of the women surveyed said they had food cravings, about 64% reported mood swings or anxiety and 57% felt fatigue. Nearly 29% of participants said their premenstrual symptoms interfered with their everyday life during every menstrual cycle, while about 35% said these symptoms interfered sometimes.
“The incidence of reported premenstrual mood and anxiety symptoms varied significantly by country, from a low of 35.1% in Congo to a high of 68.6% in Egypt,” Payne said in a university news release. “Understanding whether differences in biology or culture underlie the country level rates will be an important future research direction.”
Older respondents were more likely to report absentmindedness, low libido, sleep changes, gastrointestinal symptoms, weight gain, headaches, sweating or hot flashes, fatigue, hair changes, rashes and swelling. This “makes sense,” the researchers said, because many of these symptoms are also associated with perimenopause, a time in which women experience symptoms including irregular menstrual cycles as they transition toward menopause.
Payne hopes the findings, published online recently in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health, will help women get better care by helping health care providers become more aware of how frequently women are experiencing these symptoms.
“There are a number of treatment strategies that are available to treat premenstrual symptoms that interfere with a woman’s every day functioning,” she said. “Increasing awareness of how common these symptoms are, and that if they impact functioning that there are treatments available, will help women improve their quality of life.”
The Office on Women’s Health has more on premenstrual syndrome.
SOURCE: University of Virginia Health System, news release, Sept. 6, 2022