She works harder for the money

Posted by on Oct 24, 2011 in aging, career, menopause | 0 comments

Awhile back, I wrote a post about how menopause impacts our occupational health and the need for greater awareness among managers of the types of health challenges that their middle aged female employees might be going through.  This issue is evidently an ongoing hot button, as it has popped up again in a study that is current online at the Menopause journal site.

There are several conditions that affect work participation and demands, including menopause. And although there is some indication that abseenteeism is highest among women 45 years and older compared to their male contemporaries, the reasons have not been entirely elucidated. By gaining a better understanding of the factors that influence the balance between resources and work demands, there may be a greater openness to understanding and managing expectations by both the employee and the employer.

To explore this further, and using two scientific scales as a foundation, researchers looked into the severity and frequency of psychological, somatic, vasomotor and sexual symptoms and their potential impact on physical and mental work demands, health status and resources in208 women between the ages of 44 and 6o  Additionally, they evaluated individual and lifestyle factors that might skew results, as it has been shown previously that among both men and women, lower education, older age, overweight, smoking and lack of exercise all negatively affected work ability.

The result? there was a negative and significant association between menopausal symptoms and work ability. Moreover, even after theyadjusted for some of the factors mentioned above, they found total work ability scores declined by almost a half a point for every one point on the total symptoms scale score. Mental health played a huge role as did somatic symptoms such as sleep disturbances, insomnia, joint pain or mood swings.

If these findings are extrapolated to real world situations, workplace interventions such as yoga breaks, exercise and stress reduction strategies, coupled with a self awareness of overall health and how symptoms detract from that (or not)  are simple first steps towards finding a solution and improving work ability.  The other piece of this, however, i.e. to openly communicate to our work colleagues, our managers, our partners and our friends how productivity and our relationships may be suffering and actively involve them in finding solutions, might not be so simple.

Often, one of first thing that’s pulled out of the aging hat is the fear that an employee is easily replaced. This has never been truer than in today’s economic environment where the numbers of willing and able workers are stacked against those who are holding onto their jobs by a string and a prayer. As a menopausal woman, do you really want to hand your employer a reason to replace you? I’m betting that the answer is no. Consequently, I am unclear about the best strategy for finding the elusive balance between work ability, resources and symptoms.

Any thoughts or ideas? I’d love to hear them. Let’s get a dialogue going, particularly if you are working harder for the money because of symptoms.

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