, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 323-332
Date: 30 Aug 2012

What factors determine whether a woman becomes depressed during the perimenopause?

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Abstract

Perimenopause has long been associated with psychological distress, both anecdotally and clinically. Research has identified this time as a period of increased risk for both first-episode depression and for depression reoccurrence. However, we know that the majority of women do not experience these difficulties during perimenopause. This review examines the current research literature looking at the factors associated with depression during perimenopause, with a view to identifying those factors which are protective and those factors which predict increased risk. From the literature, it is evident that some women have a hormonal vulnerability to mood disorders. However, this does not account for the phenomenon of perimenopausal depression in and of itself. Rather, there appears to be a complex interplay between hormonal vulnerability, the psychosocial resources one has (coping skills and social support), their overall well-being (exercise and other lifestyle factors) and the demands on their coping resources (stressful life events). The complexity of the relationship between perimenopause and depression means that there is a need to look beyond either as a sole explanation of mood during midlife. Education is required for both general practitioners and for women regarding the individual risks of psychological distress during perimenopause, as well as the knowledge of the life factors which we know to be protective.