Getting hot flashes is a cliché for a reason — among women of a certain age, it’s practically a guarantee. And it lasts for a long time, too. According to new research, when menopause comes around, hot flashes are a lot more than just a phase.
A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine focused on vasomotor symptoms, which include hot flashes and night sweats. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center analyzed data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, which analyzed women across the country from 1996 to 2013. In the largest study of its kind, they focused on a group of 1,449 women who reported having frequent menopausal symptoms (six days over a two-week period).
They found that on average, menopausal women endured hot flashes and night sweats for 7.4 years. The longest reported stretch of symptoms was 14 years. And frustratingly, the earlier women started feeling symptoms, the longer they lasted. Women who felt symptoms before their periods stopped for good suffered the longest.
African American women experienced the longest stretch of hot flashes of any ethnic group, while women of Japanese and Chinese descent had the shortest. “[The difference] could be genetic, diet, reproductive factors, how many children women have,” Nancy Avis, the study’s lead author, told the New York Times.
Interestingly, length of hot flashes was correlated with less education and higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, though it isn’t clear whether the stress causes hot flashes or the other way around. Lower levels of estrogen lead to hot flashes, and the hormonal imbalance may affect mental health. Or, you know, sweating constantly — and knowing it’ll last for years — might make you a little bit stressed.
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This story originally appeared on ELLE.com
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