CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — Premenstrual mood swings and anxiety are so common that they pose a “major public health problem worldwide,” according to a new study. Researchers at the University of Virginia say 64 percent of women experience these symptoms.
Their research shows that most women experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) every menstrual cycle, with those symptoms regularly affecting their daily lives. Regardless of age, one of the most common PMS symptoms is mood swings or anxiety. Across all age groups, at least 61 percent of women report mood-related symptoms during each menstrual cycle. Researchers state that this suggests “premenstrual mood symptoms are a major public health problem worldwide.”
“Our study shows that premenstrual mood symptoms are incredibly common worldwide,” said senior study author Jennifer L. Payne, MD, director of the Reproductive Psychiatry Research Program at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, in a university release. More importantly, a majority of women reported that their premenstrual symptoms interfered with their daily lives at least some of the time.
The study authors initially wanted to better understand the spectrum of PMS symptoms women experience, as well as how those symptoms affect their daily lives. To that end, the team analyzed more than 238,000 survey responses from women aged 18 to 55 in 144 countries. Each participant used the Flo app, which allows women to track their menstrual cycle, as well as their mood and physical symptoms during and after pregnancy.
PMS symptoms can change with age
Food cravings came in as the number one most common premenstrual symptom (85.28%), followed by mood swings or anxiety (64.18%) and fatigue (57.3%). Also, 28.61 percent of respondents told researchers that their premenstrual symptoms interfered with their daily lives during each menstrual cycle. Similarly, another 34.84 percent said their premenstrual symptoms sometimes interfered with their daily lives.
“The incidence of reported premenstrual mood and anxiety symptoms varied significantly by country, from a low of 35.1% in Congo to a high of 68.6% in Egypt,” adds Dr. Payne. “Understanding whether differences in biology or culture underlie country-level rates will be an important future research direction.”
The research team notes that a number of PMS symptoms were much more common in older participants. These symptoms include absent-mindedness, low libido, sleep changes, gastrointestinal symptoms, weight gain, headache, sweating or hot flashes, fatigue, hair changes, rash, and swelling. The study authors explain that the higher percentage of physical symptoms in older women “makes sense” because many of those symptoms are related to perimenopausea transition period to menopause that can cause irregular menstrual cycles.
dr. Payne hopes this work will raise awareness among physicians and healthcare providers regarding the frequency of PMS symptoms, especially mood swings and anxiety.
“A number of treatment strategies are available to treat premenstrual symptoms that interfere with a woman’s daily functioning,” the researcher concluded. “Raising awareness of how common these symptoms are, and that if they affect functioning that treatments are available, will help women improve their quality of life.”
The study is published in the journal Archives of Women’s Mental Health.
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