Sara Viotti, PhD, University of Turin; Lucia Travierso, MA, University of Turin; Gloria Guidetti, PhD, University of Chieti-Pescara; Ilaria Sottimano, PhD, University of Turin; Daniela Coverso, Prof, University of Turin

The aim of the present study was to test the following hypotheses: (H1) Work ability mediates the relationship between job demands and exhaustion. (H2) The indirect effect of work ability in the relationship between job demands and exhaustion is influenced by the exacerbating effect of menopausal symptoms on the relationship between job demands and work ability.

Menopause is a physiological process that marks the end of the reproductive phase of a woman’s life (Mishra & Kuh, 2006). This process entails a constellation of symptoms (e.g., hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and decreased physical strength) attributed to hormonal changes, which may vary considerably in terms of incidence and intensity across individuals (Moilanen et al., 2010). In Western countries, older women represent an especially important portion of the total workforce. For instance, the percentage of employed women in the age belt of 55-64 years in Italy has risen from 27% to 47% in only ten years (2010-2019; Eurostat, 2019). (Eurostat, 2019). The increasing presence of employed women undergoing menopause has stimulated a growing corpus of research highlighting the complex relationship between menopause and work. Nevertheless, little is known regarding the mechanism by which menopause affects work ability and work-related well-being. In order to fill this gap in the literature, the present study examined whether and how menopausal symptoms affect the relationship between job demands, work ability, and exhaustion.

In total, 1,069 menopausal women employed as administrative officers in an Italian public organization filled out a self-report questionnaire. A moderated mediation analysis was carried out in MPLUS, using latent moderated structural (LMS) equation.

The findings of this analysis indicated that the indirect effect of work ability on the relationship between job demands and exhaustion is influenced by the exacerbating effect of menopausal symptoms on the relationship between job demands and work ability. Moreover, the conditional effect confirmed that women with high menopausal symptoms receive more exposure to the negative effects of job demands on work ability compared to women with low menopausal symptoms.

This study highlights a serious risk for menopausal women reporting menopausal symptoms. In interaction with job demands, menopausal symptoms may overtax the psychophysiological system and dysregulate the individual’s energy balance by hampering work ability, which has the key role of keeping energetic processes activated at work.

The most relevant limitation of the present study was its cross-sectional design. Future research should employ a longitudinal design to explore the cross-lagged associations between the examined constructs. Longitudinal studies may also be useful for understanding whether and how the relationships between these constructs change over time. Another limitation of this study was that it only employed self-report measures. The use of only a single data source may introduce the issue of common method variance. Future studies may benefit from research designs including a combination of objective measures (e.g., medical diagnosis of menopausal syndrome) and subjective measures or data from multiple sources (e.g., a job analysis to assess job demands).

Overall, the present findings have several practical implications. For one, these findings suggest that organizational management should develop an awareness that the menopause experience and its effects on work vary considerably across different women. Therefore, it is important to avoid grounding new policies and interventions in the implicit, a priori generalization that menopause is a problematic condition. One potential risk of taking this position, not far from gendered ageism and stigmatization, is the medicalization of all women undergoing menopause. Conversely, a data-driven, bottom-up approach could be an effective means of identifying menopausal women’s specific needs in the workplace. The present findings also highlighted that in order to effectively manage menopause in the workplace, it is important to develop a prevention strategy at both the organizational and public-institutional levels. In particular, the development of training, policies, and activities specifically related to menopause may be crucial to improve women’s job sustainability across their entire working lifespans.

References. Eurostat (2019). Employment rates by sex, age and educational attainment level (%). Available from: Mishra, G., & Kuh, D. (2006). Perceived change in quality of life during the menopause. Social Science Medicine, 62(1), 93-102. Moilanen, J., Aalto, A.M., Hemminki, E., Aro, A. R., Raitanen, J., & Luoto, R. (2010). Prevalence of menopause symptoms and their association with lifestyle among Finnish middle-aged women. Maturitas, 67(4), 368-74.

Tags: Aging Workforce, Applied research, Diversity and Inclusion in a Changing Workforce, Emerging Issues, Psychological and Biological Effects of Job Stress, Workplace Stress; Outcomes; and Recovery