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OBJECTIVE--To examine the impact of menopausal symptoms on the overall quality of life of women. DESIGN--Data collection with a questionnaire administered by an interviewer, incorporating two different quality of life measurement techniques (time trade off and rating scale). SETTING--Specialist menopause clinic and two general practices in Oxford. SUBJECTS--63 women aged 45-60 years recruited opportunistically during a clinic or appointment with a general practitioner; no exclusion criteria. RESULTS--Subjects gave very low quality of life ratings for health states with menopausal symptoms. The time trade off method of measuring preferences for these health states (on a scale from 0 to 1, where preference for full health is given as 1) yielded utility values of 0.64 for severe menopausal symptoms and 0.85 for mild symptoms. The rating scale measurement technique yielded even lower values: utilities of 0.30 and 0.65 were obtained for severe and mild symptoms respectively. Kappa scores indicated that the two methods produced results that were poorly related but not contradictory. Comparison of quality of life ratings before and after treatment with hormone replacement therapy showed significant improvements: with the rating scale measurement technique mean increases in utility values after the relief of severe and mild menopausal symptoms were 0.56 and 0.18 respectively. CONCLUSIONS--Quality of life may be severely compromised in women with menopausal symptoms, and perceived improvements in quality of life in users of hormone replacement therapy seem to be substantial. This emphasises the need to include quality of life measurements when assessing outcomes of hormone replacement therapy. Several limitations may exist with widely applied measurement techniques, calling for the development of appropriate and well validated instruments for measuring quality of life associated with reduced health states.