Menopause inequality is affecting 51% of ethnic minority women

holland and barrett campaigners

Olympian Michelle Griffith Robinson is campaigning for better menopause support (Picture: Holland & Barrett)

Madhu Kapoor struggled with burnout, exhaustion, lower mood, insomnia, night sweats, joint aches and mood swings when she was going through the menopause.

She quit her job of 23 years due to these ‘invisible’ symptoms and says her home life became ‘somber’.

Her isolation was compounded by the fact that when she looked online for help she could relate to, she found…nothing. It left her feeling like she was ‘hanging on a very fine line like a puppet on a string’.

‘I found it hard to accept that every time I searched for women and menopause, the images that came up were Caucasian grey-haired women,’ says Madhu, 57, of south Asian heritage.

‘I did not fit the bill.’

She went on to found of M for Menopause, write an upcoming book on the subject, and has become vocal about her experience to help others facing similar feelings of erasure.

‘I found when attending medical appointments I was stereotyped,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

‘However, these unique aspects are often overlooked in the broader menopause conversation, which tends to be dominated by a Western perspective.

‘Research being carried out is not reaching those communities.

‘When I began to search for information on menopause, I could not find research to do with Asian women – and if research has been done it’s with a miniscule number, which does not provide a clear picture and can hinder gaps of knowledge and support for marginalised groups.’

Madhu Kapoor

Madhu had to quit her job when the menopause began (Picture: Madhu Kapoor)

This ties in with new research by Holland & Barrett, who found that 51% of ethnic minority women are experiencing inequality in support with the menopause.

The women surveyed said that ‘current advice is not representative and too focussed on the experience of white women’.

Ethnicity can affect the severity of menopausal symptoms – a SWAN [study of women’s health across the nation] study found that for Black women, symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats are more often intense and last longer than those in white, European women.

A person’s race and cultural background may also impact how long symptoms last. For example, Black women start menopause two years earlier than their white European counterparts on average.

However, Holland & Barrett found a quarter of women find it difficult to access support relevant to their specific backgrounds. 

The retailer is now campaigning to make ‘every menopause matter’, with support from Olympian Michelle Griffith Robinson and expert, Meera Bhogal.

31% of women wish they could speak to a woman from the same background (Picture: Holland & Barrett)

Cultural differences play a role in how the menopause is experienced – both literally and psychologically.

Almost a third of women believe being able to speak to a female healthcare professional of the same ethnicity would help.

Meera Bhogal says: ‘In the South Asian community, women’s health isn’t talked about generally, so when I started experiencing perimenopausal symptoms at 40, I had no clue what was happening to me.

‘I really want to help remove the stigma of the menopause and open-up conversations and help women from all communities be able to access the advice and support they need.’

Holland & Barrett has now launched a multi-language menopause online consultation service to help bridge the gap, and has set up a charity partnership with Wellbeing of Women.

Janet Lindsay, CEO of the charity, says: ‘There are stark inequalities for women and people when accessing menopause information and care which are generally not designed to meet the particular needs of Black, Asian or other ethnic minority groups, as well as those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds or with disabilities and LGBTQ+.’

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