Behavior, Health, and Aging

By Stephen B. Manuck; Richard Jennings et al. | Go to book overview

4
Menopause as a Turning Point in Midlife

Karen A. Matthews Rena R. Wing Lewis H. Kuller Elaine N. Meilahn Jane F. Owens University of Pittsburgh

A popular concept of midlife is that it is a critical turning point, a time of abrupt and drastic change. Women are thought to be particularly vulnerable to experiencing midlife as a turning point because of the menopause. Contemporary writers liken the menopause to a tragedy or to a battle. Wilson ( 1966), the author of Feminine Forever, wrote that the menopause led "to a cow-like state, in which women experience the world through a grey veil and they live as harmless, docile creatures missing most of life's values" (p. 347). Sheehy ( 1991) in The Silent Passage likened her menopause to being in a battle. She noted that "a little grenade went off in my brain. A flash, a shock, a sudden surge of electric current that whizzed through my head and left me feeling shaken, nervous, off balance. . . . In the months that followed, I sometimes felt outside my body" (pp. 14-15).

Given these cultural stereotypes and writings by prominent authors, it is not surprising that women expect the menopause to be a negative experience. In the Healthy Women Study, a longitudinal study of the menopause in over 500 initially premenopausal women, subjects expected that the menopause would generally be a negative psycological

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