There are specific health considerations for women at work which impact on many women during their working lives. These issues can be overlooked, but have a major impact on women at work, leaving them isolated and not knowing where to turn for help. There has been a recent and welcome focus on menopause in the occupational health sector, with a study on a cognitive behavioural therapy self-management tool being recently published (see below).
With more than 3.5 million women aged over 50 in work, the effects of the menopause on organisations and their workers need more open discussion. Some women experience almost no symptoms but around 80 per cent do experience noticeable changes and of these, 45 per cent find their symptoms difficult to deal with. The most common symptoms are hot flushes, night sweats and irritability.
Research found women were little prepared for the arrival of the menopause, and even less equipped to manage its symptoms at work. Over half had not disclosed their symptoms to their manager. The majority of women felt they needed further advice and support (75%). Some of the support was around flexible working, but some was very straightforward – access to cold drinking water was in the top 10 adjustments that women said would make their working lives easier during this time.
Changing lifestyle also helps women to reduce menopausal symptoms, keep bone density and reduce risk of heart disease. The BDA has a very popular factsheet on evidence based approaches: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/Menopause.pdf.
In terms of other strategies to help women, a simple, workplace-delivered cognitive behavioural intervention helped women manage the symptoms of menopause, according to research conducted by the MENOS Research Group at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London. The randomised controlled trial included 124 women: half of whom followed a self-help programme of cognitive behavioural therapy delivered at work. Participants in the intervention group showed a significant reduction in their rating of hot-flush and night-sweat problems compared with a control group, as well as improvements in wellbeing, physical symptoms and sleep.
In summary, organisations should consider a range of interventions for workplaces with women aged over 50 – awareness raising, training for line managers on the symptoms of the menopause, investigation of tools which might help. In terms of lifestyle, having relevant information and support readily available will help, as will access to healthy and affordable food options and opportunity for physical activity.
You can also see BDA Work Ready’s new handout on nutrition-related advice on the menopause for your workforce at the Health & Wellbeing at Work event on 7 – 8 March in Birmingham. I am speaking at 4:25pm and will be on stand 157 to take your questions. Alternatively email us now at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about our workshops on nutrition for women’s health, or other activities we can offer your workplace.