Menopause puts final nail in marriage coffin
7 in 10 UK women blame menopause for their divorce, survey suggests
New research released to coincide with World Menopause Day cements what has been long assumed, but never proven, that the menopause has a clear and negative impact on divorce, separation and relationships.
A survey conducted by The Family Law Menopause Project and Newson Health Research and Education, shows that 7 in 10 women (73%) who responded blame the menopause for the breakdown of their marriage. A further 67% of the 1,000 women taking part worryingly claimed it increased domestic abuse and arguments.
Sadly, only a fifth of those women had sought support to talk about the perimenopause/menopause because they didn’t, at the time, think it was a contributing factor to the breakdown of the relationship.
With an estimated 13 million women of menopausal age in this country alone, and one in four of them having severe symptoms, these figures paint a bleak future for the legally recognised union of two people, as 9.5million marriages and relationships in the UK are arguably under threat because of a women’s hormone deficiency, and the correlation between the two not being fully understood or acknowledged.
The study also reveals that despite almost 80% of respondents admitting that their perimenopause/menopause symptoms put a strain on their children and/or family life, only a third of all women had been offered treatment or HRT to relieve their symptoms despite it being the optimum treatment. These findings echo recent reports of the lack of specialised menopause care available to women within the NHS.
In contrast 65% of those who were offered HRT said it had made a positive impact on their menopause-related symptoms. Some 70% of those who had not received support or treatment had said that if they had, it would have had a positive impact on their relationship and potentially avoided the breakdown of their marriage.
With the onset of perimenopause in the mid-40s, the average age of menopause at 51 and the peak time of divorce being between ages 45 and 55, these results highlight the need for awareness and have been released, to open the conversation, offer advice, and encourage women to seek help and support.
The study also reveals enormous gaps in the awareness and understanding of family lawyers who are supporting couples throughout their divorce.
The majority (86%) of respondents reported that they did not feel comfortable raising the issue of perimenopause/menopause in discussions with their lawyer and nearly all (97%) stated that their family lawyer did not raise it with them nor explore how menopause may affect the case when it comes to relationship dynamics; splitting the assets or related children matters.
Nearly 8 in 10 (76%) thought that family lawyers and judges need training in respect of menopause symptoms, so they know how to sensitively deal with it and factor it into their cases. One of the aims of The Family Law Menopause Project is to raise awareness amongst the family law community of the impact of menopause both in general terms to ensure they deliver the best possible client service and so that family lawyers can ensure that their advice leads to a fair financial outcome for female clients as they approach retirement.
Farhana Shahzady, founder of the Family Law Menopause Project and director at London and South East family law firm, said: “This ground-breaking survey of women confirms the link between menopause and divorce and further highlights the lack of understanding within the family law profession of the impact of perimenopause and menopause.
“Of deep concern to me is that more than half of the respondents said that perimenopause or menopause had (or will) make it harder for them to save for retirement and/or reduce their ability to save into pensions. This means that women may face real financial hardship as they approach retirement, post-divorce/separation.
“It is clear that the family law profession, as in wider society, needs to appreciate the reality of menopause and that we must be better equipped to support the many clients who are profoundly affected by menopause.”
Louise Newson, GP, Menopause Specialist, Chair of the Newson Health Menopause Society and Newson Health Research and Education, said: “Working with The Family Law Menopause Project to create this report is a fantastic opportunity to highlight the correlation between the menopause and relationships.
“Whilst the physical symptoms of the menopause are well-known and often discussed, the mental health impact is often ignored and can be catastrophic for many women, having a deeply negative effect on their work, relationships, and finances as a result.
“Our mission is to improve the health outcomes for perimenopausal and menopausal women through further education and research, and this research does just that.’
The survey was launched in June 2022 to uncover trends and insight as to the impact menopause (including perimenopause) has during a divorce or separation. More than 1000 women took part in the survey. Participants were all women who have either gone through or are currently going through a divorce, and who have gone through or going through the menopause.