Portland State University. School of Social Work
Date of Award
Master of Social Work (MSW)
1 online resource (120 p.)
The purpose of this study was to explore the needs of women experiencing menopause. Since women at this time experience physical, social and emotional changes, they may have a special need for services. Doctors were selected as the population for study because they treat so many women at this age and because they are powerful transmitters of our culture. This exploratory study was designed to provide descriptive information about the doctors' perceptions.
Results are reported from interviews with seventeen gynecologists from the Portland metropolitan area in Oregon. Attempts were made to interview all female gynecologists in the area. Male gynecologists were randomly sampled and the sample was stratified to ensure representation of doctors from a pre-paid medical plan. Doctors were questioned about definitions of menopause, treatment, and use of community resources.
Overall, it was found that doctors hesitated to make generalizations about patients. This seemed especially true in regard to questions about the effects of menopause or the problems women experience. When speaking about both their definition of menopause and the types of problems associated with it, female physicians tended to limit responses to the biological aspects of menopause. Generally, it was the male doctors who stressed the social or emotional aspects.
The major forms of primary treatment used by doctors were: hormone replacement therapy; talking to the patient (i.e. providing education or reassurance about menopause); or some combination of the two depending upon the individual patient's problem. Degree of hormone use varied among doctors. Yet, at some time, with some patients - all doctors used some form of hormone treatment. Generally, Kaiser doctors appeared to use a lower rate of hormone therapy than doctors in private practice.
Most doctors were aware of the existence of community resources. Kaiser doctors tend to most frequently use their own social service department or mental health clinic to handle the other-than-medical problems patients might experience. The community resources which received the highest mention overall were mental health clinics and members of the clergy. The next most frequent category was other mental health professionals.
Six of the seventeen doctors interviewed named services, not now in existence, which they would use if available. Those most frequently mentioned were groups and information & referral services.
Most doctors believed that the needs of women at the time of menopause were different from the needs of other women. Most frequently mentioned were changes in the women's family structure, changes in her activities, and feelings of being no longer needed.
Several doctors who were interviewed echoed researchers such as Bernice Neugarten and Pauline Bart in stressing the negative attitudes which our society has towards women at the age of menopause. In addition, many of the gynecologists expressed awareness of social needs.
The results of the study indicate that doctors' services are primarily involved with treatment of medical or biological concerns, and referrals are generally to mental health resources. Several doctors mentioned social needs of the women; and as has been noted, the need for attitudinal change. Social workers can play important roles to bring about these changes. Two possible approaches are suggested: education to increase awareness of medical and social work professionals and the establishment of new resources to advocate for women at the time of menopause. Suggestions for further research are also given.
Cogan, Zadell and Kennedy, Sharon, "Women in menopause: a study of gynecologist's perceptions" (1977). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1996.