8 July 2019

Menstrual period symptoms may be linked to nearly nine days of lost productivity every year, through presenteeism, suggests the largest study of its kind, published in the online journal BMJ Open. But the real impact on women and society is underestimated and poorly appreciated, say the researchers.

They set out to evaluate lost productivity associated with menstrual symptoms, as measured by time off from work or school (absenteeism) and working or studying while feeling ill (presenteeism) in 32,748 Dutch women between the ages of 15 and 45. All the participants were recruited through social media from July to the end of October 2017. They filled in a comprehensive online questionnaire about the frequency and length of their menstrual cycle and the severity of any associated symptoms, measured using a validated pain score (visual analogue scale or VAS for short). They were asked if their symptoms had prompted them to take time off from work or school and/or had affected their productivity while working or studying, as well as how often this had happened. Their blood loss lasted an average of 5 days. Menstrual symptoms prompted nearly a third (31%) of the women to visit their family doctor, and around one in seven (14.4%) to see a gynaecologist. In all, around one in seven respondents (just under 14%, 4514) said they had taken time off from work or school during their period, with nearly 3.5% (1108) saying this happened during every, or nearly every, menstrual cycle. The average amount of sickness leave taken came to just over one day a year. Younger women under the age of 21 were around three times more likely to say they had taken time off because of their menstrual symptoms than were older women. Most (just under 81%; 26,438) respondents reported presenteeism, and said that they were less productive as a result of their symptoms. In all, productivity was below par on more than 23 days out of the working/study year, with lost productivity amounting to almost 9 days each year. The researchers calculated that, on average, each woman was less productive for a third of the time (33%), because of menstrual symptoms. Notably, when women called in sick because of menstrual symptoms, only one in five (20%; 908) told their employer or school the real reason for their absence. And around two thirds (just under 68%; 22,154) of respondents said they wished they had the option of more flexible work/study hours during their period. This is an observational study, and as such can’t establish cause. The method of recruitment may also have introduced an element of ‘selection bias’ whereby those with debilitating symptoms might have been more likely to take part; the analysis also relied on what women said rather than objective assessment. But the researchers nevertheless conclude: “Menstruation-related symptoms cause a great deal of lost productivity, and presenteeism is a bigger contributor to this than absenteeism. “Taking all the symptoms into account, it seems likely that the real impact of [menstruation related symptoms] is underestimated in the general population.” But it’s not openly talked about, they add. “Despite being almost two decades into the 21st century, discussions about [symptoms] may still be rather taboo.”

Publication in BMJ Open
Productivity loss due to menstruation-related symptoms: a nationwide cross-sectional survey among 32 748 women
Mark E Schoep, Eddy M M Adang, Jacques W M Maas, Bianca De Bie, Johanna W M Aarts, Theodoor E Nieboer

 

Related news items


1.5 million for research into young people with mild intellectual disabilities

13 November 2019

Researchers from the Radboud University and Radboudumc will partner with social organisations to map how often young people with mild intellectual disabilities have psychological problems and how they can be treated. The project was recently awarded a subsidy of 1.5 million euro by ZonMw.

read more

Bart van de Warrenburg appointed visiting professor at the UKM Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur

11 November 2019

Neurologist and Principal Investigator at the Donders Institute Bart van de Warrenburg has been appointed visiting professor at the UKM Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

read more

KNAW Van Leersum beurs for Mohammad Alsady

7 November 2019

Mohammad Alsady, theme Disorders of movement, received the “KNAW Van Leersum beurs”.

read more

3D breast ultrasound elastography to improve breast cancer detection

5 November 2019

One out of seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their life. Early detection of breast cancer is important to increase the survival rate. Gijs Hendriks graduated recently on a new technique, 3D elastography, to detect breast cancer better.

read more

Self-management rehabilitation program improves participation in patients with neuromuscular disease

4 November 2019

Yvonne Veenhuizen, Alexander Geurts theme Neurorehabilitation, Baziel van Engelen, theme Disorders of movement, and colleagues, showed that Energetic improves participation in patients with neuromuscular disease. They have published their results in Neurology.

read more

New NFU eBROK® course open for registration

1 November 2019

This platform is not only for researchers who want to obtain their BROK® certificate, but also for researchers who already have a BROK® certificate and want to keep their certification (re-certification).

read more