Research on women's violence exposure is essential and necessary as the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the rates of intimate partner violence and child abuse. A new study showed that a woman's collective violence exposure--consisting of her own abuse and that of her child--speeds up reproductive ageing to result in an earlier age of menopause.
The study results were published in the article 'Association between intergenerational violence exposure and maternal age of menopause' in 'Menopause', the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Violence exposure has previously been shown to be associated with an array of mental and physical health problems. Newer research additionally revealed its connection with the pace of reproductive ageing. Early menopause, particularly before age 45, is associated with increased risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, and premature death.
In addition, studies have shown that childhood sexual and physical abuse is associated with earlier menarche. Associations between violence and accelerated reproductive ageing in the early and later life course of women are believed to work through the disruption of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the body's response to stress. Previous studies, however, were limited to focusing on the effect of a woman's own abuse.
This new study was one of the first to look at what was known as intergenerational violence exposure and its effect on the age of menopause. It was designed to evaluate how both maternal and child violence exposures will independently accelerate maternal menopause timing.
It concluded that a mother's own childhood physical abuse and her child's sexual abuse were both associated with an earlier age of menopause. Specifically, mothers who were physically abused in childhood and have a child who experienced regular sexual abuse reached menopause 8.78 years earlier than mothers without a history of personal abuse or abuse of their child.
"This study underscores the devastating effect of exposure to violence that is known to affect subsequent generations. The health-related burden of intergenerational violence is substantial and includes the possibility of early-onset menopause and the associated potential long-term adverse health outcomes. Addressing this issue will require involvement of multiple sectors and necessitate social change, as well as updated policies and education," said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director. (ANI)