About one in five women residing in India are likely to experience menopause by the age of 41, according to a study conducted by Bangalore, India-based Institute for Social and Economic Change, London's Times reports.
According to the Times, the onset of menopause usually begins between ages 45 and 55, with a worldwide average of 51. Premature menopause is the end of menstruation before age 40 and affects about 1% of women worldwide. For the study, T. S. Syamala and M. Sivakami of ISEC used data from the National Family Health Survey, conducted in 1988 and 1999, which examined about 90,000 married women ages 15 to 49 across 26 Indian states. The study found that 3.1% of women living in India became menopausal between ages 30 and 34, 8% of women experienced menopause by age 39 and 19% of were menopausal by age 41. The average menopausal age in India is 44.3 years. The study found that premature menopause was most common in rural areas, as well as among agricultural workers, women who were illiterate and women who had a low body mass index. According to the Times, malnutrition and poverty are believed to be contributing factors to premature menopause; however, the study did not address the causes. The results are "significant because most health programs in India focus on women of reproductive age," Syamala said, adding, "It is high time that we started to focus on post-menopausal women because of increasing life expectancy in India and because of the health risks associated with premature menopause." Some health experts questioned the study's methods and conclusions and called for more research into the issue (Page, Times, 1/23).