A survey run jointly by Veterinary Woman (VW) and the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) has highlighted the profound impact of the menopause in veterinary working life. The survey, which sought to gain an insight into awareness of the menopause in addition to the impacts, had over 250 responses. Over 80% said the menopause had affected their health, while nearly half said the impact on their mental health had been moderate to severe. Overall, 76% said they were concerned about the impact of the menopause on their health, life and work. A full report of the survey has been published and can be accessed here.

The most commonly reported physical symptoms, affecting over three quarters of respondents, were fatigue, irritability and difficultly sleeping. Hot flushes, night sweats and joint pain were also very common. Anxiety was the most common mental health impact, with some individuals experiencing clinical depression and, rarely, suicidal ideation. Workplace measures said to be helpful included flexible working, help with heavy lifting and provision of fans or air conditioning. Diary management to allow breaks, and openness and understanding amongst colleagues were also valued.

The majority of respondents were women of menopausal age, and predominantly vets and veterinary nurses in clinical roles, but also included practice managers and non-clinical staff. Liz Barton, editor of VW said, “As a predominantly female workforce, we cannot ignore the profound impact the menopause can have both on individuals and veterinary teams. The effects last for an average of seven years and impact a majority of women mid-career. As a profession we have an opportunity to lead this conversation as it’s beginning to open up across the wider media.”

Awareness of the impact of menopause was wide ranging across age categories, but averaged 4.3 out of 10 for those 40 years old and under, and increased to 7.4 out of 10 for those aged 41 and over. Even with relatively high levels of awareness among respondents, 90% said they would like to know more about the impacts from either personal and/or business and human resource perspectives.

SPVS President, Anna Judson, said, “Having experienced the effects of the menopause working as a practice owner, I wish I had known more about the impact and that I was not alone in how I was feeling. It’s time to break these taboos, open up the conversation and put in place measures to mitigate the impacts. In so doing, we will not only help individuals to continue to thrive in their careers, but also help practices to retain experienced staff at this challenging time of life.”

A free access webinar discussing menopause impacts and how to mitigate them is freely available to watch on the VW website.