Early Menopause Statistics: Everything You Need to Know

Menopause

It’s a fact of life! Every woman who lives long enough will go through menopause. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, for most women, this occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 years with the average age being about 51 years. The menopause cycle typically starts around the age of 47 and lasts 4-5 years. 1

Given these facts, it is important to know that some women may experience early menopause, or premature ovarian failure. Premature menopause is usually defined as menopause that occurs before the age of 40 years. In a study done in the early 1960’s, the National Center for Health Statistics studied a broad range of women and found a steep increase in menopausal women after the age of 40 years as indicated in figure 1 below. This graph has not changed significantly over the years.
menopause chart

Figure 1: Reported Age at Menopause
2

Prevalence of Early Menopause

Early menopause is relatively rare. For women under 20 years old, the condition will affect only 1 in 10,000 women. As age increases, the prevalence increases – at the age of 30, the odds of premature menopause increase to 1 in 1000. By the age of 40, 1 in 100 women might have gone through menopause. The stages of menopause are defined by the age at which menopause begins as noted in Figure 2.

Stage Definition Prevalence

Stage Definition Prevalance
Premature Menopause Before The Age of 40 1% of Women
Early Menopause 41-45 Years Old 5% of Women
Normal Menopause 46-55 Years Old 89% of Women
Late Menopause Over The Age of 55 5% of Women
Figure 2: Stages of Menopause

Causes of Early Menopause

Most of the time, it is impossible to explain the cause of early menopause. However, there are several factors that may be associated with the woman’s age at menopause. These include:

  • Surgical intervention: If a woman has had her ovaries removed, she will immediately stop menstruating. When menopause is caused by removal of a woman’s ovaries, this is called ‘surgical menopause’. According to the North American Menopause Society 3, this abrupt onset of premature menopause may cause extreme symptoms and will probably require treatment. When a woman undergoes a hysterectomy without removal of the ovaries, menopause age may be 2 to 4 years earlier than average.
  • Medical Intervention: Radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer are known to cause early menopause.
  • Genetics: Approximately 5% of premature menopause is genetic. A woman with a family history of early menopause is more likely to experience menopause at a younger age. 4
  • In a study conducted by Gold et.al. and reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology 5, the researchers found that the following were all associated with early menopause:
    • Smoking – may cause menopause as much as 2 years earlier
    • Lower education
    • Being unemployed
    • History of heart disease
    • Never having had children
  • In a study done by Morris et. Al. and reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology 6, the following factors were associated with an older age at menopause:

    • High adult weight
    • High body mass index
    • Weight gain between the ages of 20 and 40 years
    • Not smoking
    • Increased alcohol consumption
    • Regular strenuous exercise
    • Not being a vegetarian
  • A study done by Steiner et. al. 7 suggest the following perinatal factors that may be associated with early menopause:
    • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES)
    • Maternal diabetes
    • Low birth weight
  • The same study suggests that having a mother older than 35 years may be associated with menopause at an older age.
  • Ethnicity: Japanese ethnicity seems to be associated with a later age at natural menopause while Hispanic women go through menopause earlier than Caucasian women.

Symptoms and Risks Associated with Early Menopause

Although most women do experience some symptoms of menopause, these symptoms may be increased with early menopause. Figure 3 outlines the most common symptoms associated with premature menopause.

Menopause Hex

Figure 3: Symptoms Associated with Early Menopause

Summary

Age at menopause is variable among women and may be dependent on a number of factors. Most women go through menopause after the age of 40; however, there is a percentage of women who go through early menopause. Knowing the statistics about early menopause can help you make choices that may make a difference!

Notes:

  1. Soules MR, Sherman S, Parrott E, et al. Executive summary: Stages of Reproductive Aging Workshop (STRAW). Fertil Steril. 2001;76(5):874-8.
  2. Vital and Health Statistics. Data from the National Health Survey, Series 11, Number 19. Downloaded from www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_11/sr11_019.pdf on March 31, 2014.
  3. North American Menopause Society. On the internet at http://www.menopause.org
  4. de Bruin JP, Bovenhuis H, van Noord PA, et al. The role of genetic factors in age at natural menopause. Hum Reprod. 2001;16(9):2014-8.
  5. Gold EB, Bromberger J, Crawford S, et al. Factors associated with age at natural menopause in a multiethnic sample of midlife women. Am J Epidemiol. 2001;153(9):865-74.
  6. Danielle H. Morris, Michael E. Jones, Minouk J. Schoemaker, Emily McFadden, Alan Ashworth, and Anthony J. Swerdlow
    Body Mass Index, Exercise, and Other Lifestyle Factors in Relation to Age at Natural Menopause: Analyses From the Breakthrough Generations Study. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2012) 175 (10): 998-1005 first published online April 10, 2012
  7. Anne Z. Steiner, Aimee A. D’Aloisio, Lisa A. DeRoo, Dale P. Sandler, and Donna D. Baird Association of Intrauterine and Early-Life Exposures With Age at Menopause in the Sister Study.Am. J. Epidemiol. (2010) 172 (2): 140-148 first published online June 9, 2010

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