Severity of Menopause Symptoms Can Affect Cognitive Performance


New study results suggest that severe depression and sexual dysfunction, in particular, can affect a woman's attention, language, orientation, recall, registration, and visuospatial skills.

The results of a new study suggest that the severity of some menopause symptoms, especially depression and sexual dysfunction, are linked to a woman’s cognitive performance.1

Study results were published online in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).1

Although menopause is natural, not all women experience it the same way. The frequency and severity of symptoms can vary greatly among women.

Previous studies have evaluated the effect of these symptoms on a women’s mental and physical well-being. This study involved more than 400 women to evaluate the effect of the severity of menopause symptoms on overall cognitive performance and its 5 domains: attention, language, orientation, recall, registration, and visuospatial skills.1

Among other things, investigators considered the severity of common menopause symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, hot flashes, and sexual dysfunction. They concluded that the cognitive performance of women is sensitive to the severity of certain menopause symptoms, especially depression and sexual dysfunction.1

In this study, there was no association identified between the severity of cognitive performance and hot flashes, though other studies have shown that an association may exist.1

“This study highlights the effect of menopause symptoms on cognitive functioning and demonstrates a link between severe depressive and sexual symptoms, specifically, with cognitive performance. Mood disturbances are common in the menopause transition and can affect memory and sexual functioning,” Stephanie Faubion, MD, FACP, NCMP, medical director at NAMS, said in a statement.1 “These findings underscore the importance of evaluating women for menopause symptoms and providing appropriate treatment, when indicated, including treatment of depression and sexual dysfunction.”.1

Of the individuals in the study, 107 were premenopausal, 90 were perimenopausal, 92 were early postmenopausal, and 115 were late postmenopausal.2

The investigators found that the severity of menopausal symptoms, including depression, total psychological, sexual, and somatic dysfunction, were highest for individuals who are late postmenopausal, while anxiety and hot flashes were most prevalent in those in early postmenopause.2

In the sample, the severity of psychological symptoms, at 47%, was the highest, followed by depression, at 44.6%, and anxiety, at 43.6%.2

Investigators also reported that women experiencing severe menopausal symptoms had lower mean values for orientation, at a mean of 8.11 for those with severe symptoms and 8.9 for those without severe symptoms; attention, at 4.31 and 4.48; language and visuospatial skills, at 7.13 and 7.91; recall, at 2.26 and 2.53; and registration, at 2.77 and 2.91, respectively.2

Although the average age of menopause is 51, menopause can actually happen any time from the 30s to the mid-50s or later, according to John Hopkins Medicine.3


1. Severity of menopause symptoms can affect a woman's cognitive performance. EurekAlert. News release. January 12, 2022. Accessed January 12, 2022.

2. Kaur M, Kaur M. Is cognitive performance of women sensitive to the severity of menopausal symptoms? Menopause. 2022. doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000001910

3. Introduction to menopause. John Hopkins Medicine. Accessed January 12, 2021.

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