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Womens Midlife Health. 2018;4. pii: 2. doi: 10.1186/s40695-018-0032-3. Epub 2018 Mar 16.

Perceived stress across the midlife: longitudinal changes among a diverse sample of women, the Study of Women's health Across the Nation (SWAN).

Author information

1
Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, 6610B SPH I, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029, USA.
2
School of Kinesiology, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.
3
Department of Internal Medicine, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.

Abstract

Background:

In women, midlife is a period of social and physiological change. Ostensibly stressful, cross-sectional studies suggest women experience decreasing stress perceptions and increasing positive outlook during this life stage. The aim of this paper was to describe the longitudinal changes in perceived stress as women transitioned through the midlife.

Methods:

Premenopausal women (n = 3044) ages 42-52 years at baseline, were recruited from seven sites in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation, and followed approximately annually over 13 visits with assessment of perceived stress and change in menopausal status. Longitudinal regression models were used to assess the effects of age, menopausal status and baseline sociodemographic variables on the trajectory of perceived stress over time.

Results:

At baseline, mean age was 46.4 ± 2.7 years; participants were white (47%), black (29%), Hispanic (7%), Japanese (9%), or Chinese (8%). Hispanic women, women with lesser educational attainment, and women reporting financial hardship were each more likely to report high perceived stress levels at baseline (all p < 0.0001). After adjustment for baseline sociodemographic factors, perceived stress decreased over time for most women (p < 0.0001), but increased for both Hispanic and white participants at the New Jersey site (p < 0.0001). Changing menopausal status was not a significant predictor of perceived stress.

Conclusions:

Self-reported stress decreased for most women as they transitioned across the midlife; changing menopausal status did not play a significant role after adjustment for age and sociodemographic factors. Future studies should explore the stress experience for women by racial/ethnic identity and demographics.

KEYWORDS:

Aging; Epidemiology; Menopausal transition; Minority health/disparities/SES; Stress; Women’s health

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