For American women, menopause comes with a hefty price tag.
That’s according to a new study from the Mayo Clinic that examined how common menopause symptoms such as mood swings and hot flashes are impacting women’s careers. About 13% of the more than 4,000 women who took part in the research effort reported suffering negative professional consequences for missing work to grapple with those and other symptoms.
Mayo Clinic researchers estimate that, in all, the loss of on-the-job hours – as well as job loss altogether, in more severe cases – cost women in the U.S. roughly $1.8 billion per year.
Study authors summarize this as “a major negative impact of menopause symptoms on work outcomes,” and add that these findings spotlight “the need to improve medical treatment for these women, and [to] make the workplace environment more supportive.”
Grace Ward, a 44-year-old library supervisor who began experiencing severe migraines when perimenopause set in, would have benefitted from such policies. “For two to three days a month, I had to keep my head down. The sensitivity to light was just obnoxious,” she told The New York Times of her headaches – as were the hot flashes and chronic fatigue.
Yet when she began taking time off in light of those symptoms, “my managers were starting to question whether I was still up to” the task of doing her job.
Dr. Ekta Kapoor, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and co-author of the study, noted to The Times that “the topic of menopause is taboo in general, but even more so at the workplace,” making the problem trickier to both understand and solve.
“I’ve heard from women that they don’t want to come across as a ‘complainer’ at work or they’ll bring up menopause and people will roll their eyes,” Kapoor adds, pointing out that this can worsen the mental load for an already-overextended group of women in the workplace.
The Mayo Clinic study follows a 2022 U.K.-based one which found that over 1 million women across the pond could be forced to leave their jobs because their current office policies offer little to no support for those experiencing menopausal symptoms. Roughy 63 percent of the 2,000 women surveyed said their companies have made virtually no efforts to assist them through this shift.
The study was commissioned by childcare provider Korus Kids. Its founder, Rachel Carrell, says that “women should never be pushed out of the workplace because of their biology.”
Rather, Carrell adds, “as a society, we need to support older women with flexible working and health support so they don’t fall out of the workplace needlessly.”