Menopausal women in the United States lose an estimated $1.8 billion worth of working time each year, according to a recent survey by the Mayo Clinic.
Menopause comes with a slew of physical changes, including hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain and sleep disruption. Of the 4,440 survey participants in the Mayo Clinic’s survey:
- Approximately 15% reported menopause symptoms severe enough to require taking time off or cutting back on work hours.
- Women with the most severe symptoms were 16 times more likely to report negative impact on work productivity than those whose symptoms weren’t as severe.
- More than 1% of survey participants had left their jobs (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) within the six months preceding the survey due to debilitating symptoms.
More than 1 million American women enter menopause each year, the biological phase of life signaling the end of menstruation. A multiyear health transition with significant physical changes, menopause typically takes place between the ages of 49 and 59, and can last for over a decade.
Lack of communication and resources lead to health coverage disparity for women
Unfortunately, hormonal transitions aren’t the only challenge that women face during menopause. While early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can drive down health costs associated with menopause, a whopping 94% of women are inadequately informed about common female health issues.
Further, up to 70% of women who do seek menopause care don’t receive the treatment they need. Only 19% of women ages 40 to 60 received a menopause diagnosis despite up to 80% reporting menopause symptoms, according to a 2023 actuarial cost report by digital health platform Elektra Health, which evaluated 2.6 million insurance claims from 2021.
Elektra Health cites lack of proper diagnosis as one of the top causes of wasteful spending on specialty provider visits and tests. The report separately noted that less than 20% of OB-GYN residency programs nationwide offer menopause-related training, suggesting that inadequate education for health care providers may be a factor in underdiagnosed cases of menopause treatment.
Price of treatment can become a hurdle for menopausal women
Women diagnosed with menopause incur 45% more health care costs each year than their nonmenopausal counterparts, according to the Elektra Health report. That translates to an average of $4,639 more each year. Given that menopause can last anywhere from seven to 14 years, a misdiagnosed woman could spend around $32,000 to $65,000 more than necessary over the course of her menopausal transition.
What can women do to take better charge of their health? Women can proactively address these concerns by educating themselves about their bodies and their changing health. Whether you’ve begun menopause or are still anticipating its onset, develop a game plan for yourself, so you know what to expect and how to plan ahead.
Holding adequate health insurance can lower many of the costs associated with consistent medical care, which tends to increase as you age. If possible, build a consistent relationship with a primary care provider and an OB-GYN who can teach you what to look for, and help you track physical changes and transitions over time.
Of course, maintaining health care coverage can be a job in and of itself, especially in the U.S. where insurance is often tied to employment — which, in turn, can be impacted by menopause symptoms. If you lose insurance coverage, research your options for care, especially if you're a senior or a retiree. There may be government-assisted plans available to you that are within your financial means.