A new study by UNC professors suggests women transitioning into menopause may be able to reduce the risk of depression symptoms through hormone therapy.
“We know that midlife for women, particularly in the transition to menopause, is a time of substantial elevations in risk for depression,” said Susan Girdler, professor of psychiatry and psychology who helped lead the research. “During the menopause transition, our risk for depression actually increases two to four times. And that’s true even for women who haven’t had a history of depression early in life.”
The study, comprised of 172 women between the ages of 45 and 60 in the Triangle area, sought participants that showed evidence of entering the stage of perimenopause. Perimenopause is the period when women begin to show signs of entering menopause, such as irregular menstrual cycles. It can also encompass the early years following the appearance of these menopause signs, as the transition can progress in unpredictable ways.
The participants were randomly selected and put into two separate groups. One group received transdermal estradiol on a daily basis, which is a skin patch that delivers 0.1 milligrams of estrogen to patients. The other group received a placebo patch at the same daily rate that did not affect their hormonal make-up. The hormone therapy process ensued for a year.
After the year of treatment, more than 30 percent of the randomized placebo group developed clinically significant depression. That result was cut nearly in half for the group randomized to the transdermal estradiol treatment, with only 17 percent of women developing the same depression symptoms.