To determine if post-menopausal status is associated with self-reported limitations in physical function.
SWAN is a multi-site, multi-ethnic, longitudinal study of midlife women. Women aged 45–57 years (N=2,566) completed the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form Physical Function Scale at visit 4 (2000–2001); scores created a 3-category variable of physical function limitations: none (86–100), moderate (51–85) and substantial (0–50). Menopausal status in SWAN is a 5-category list variable based on menstrual bleeding patterns and gynecological surgery. Pre-and peri-menopausal women using hormones (n=284) or missing physical function scores (n=46) were excluded. Multinomial logistic regression was used to relate physical function and menopausal status adjusting for age, ethnicity, site, education, body mass index (BMI), self-reported diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, depressive symptoms, smoking and hormone use among postmenopausal women.
Of 2,236 women, 8% were pre-, 51% early peri-, 12% late peri-, 24% natural post-, and 5% surgical post-menopausal status. In the full model, substantial limitations in physical function were higher in post-menopausal compared to pre-menopausal women whether it occurred naturally (OR 3.82; 95% CI: 1.46–10.0) or surgically (OR 3.54; 95% CI: 1.15–10.84). These associations were attenuated by higher BMI and depressive symptoms, but remained significant. Moderate limitations in physical function were not significantly related to menopausal status.
Women with surgical or naturally occurring post-menopause reported greater limitations in physical function than pre-menopausal women, independent of age, only partly explained by higher BMI and depressive symptoms. This suggests that physiologic changes of menopause could contribute directly to limitations in physical function.