​​Women spending more on alcohol a week than on their grocery shop to cope with menopause symptoms

Women are spending nearly £3000 on alcohol and over-the-counter medication in a year, in a bid to cope with menopause-related symptoms, a survey of UK-women reveals.
Dr Louise NewsomDr Louise Newsom
Dr Louise Newsom

With the yearly UK grocery spend for an average adult woman now reaching just over £1600, women are spending over £1000 more on self-medicating than on day-to-day food costs.

The survey, conducted by Newson Health Group, also revealed that one in three respondents said they drink more since becoming perimenopausal/menopausal, while one in eight women regularly consume more alcohol than the recommended intake of 14 units a week to alleviate their menopause symptoms.

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Similarly, over half of respondents had increased the amount of prescription painkillers and over-the-counter medication they take to try to manage their menopause-related symptoms. Nearly a quarter said they spend up to £50 a year on OTC remedies, while one in eight were shelling out in excess of £100 a year on pain relief, eye drops and herbal remedies.

The news comes against the backdrop of issues with access to treatment, misinformation and medical gaslighting in an area of women’s health that is undervalued, under resourced and underfunded.

The survey of almost 1,200 perimenopausal and menopausal women, conducted by Newson Health Group in recognition of World Menopause Day, goes on to show that, with one in four women parting with up to £50 a week to feed their alcohol addiction, the menopause could be a hidden factor in spiralling household finances across the country.

Managing menopause symptoms and a lack of access to menopause treatments were the main reasons driving women to drink more according to the online responses. Seventy per cent of the women surveyed cited anxiety, stress or depression as the reason for doing so, with several women describing alcohol as giving her “an escape”.

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Gambling and over the counter medication consumption are also coping mechanisms for many women.

The lack of education amongst health practitioners seems to be a widespread problem with over three in 10 women stating that they were wrongly prescribed antidepressants.

The Newson Health Group said many women are suffering unnecessarily and the UK is at risk of breeding a generation of addicts.

Dr Louise Newson, GP, Menopause specialist and founder of the balance menopause app, said: “It deeply upsets me to see that women are suffering unnecessarily, but sadly I’m not surprised by our survey findings. I speak to many of my women who are struggling with issues around alcohol and other addictions.

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“The changes experienced in the perimenopause and menopause can cause women a lot of discomfort and stress. As a result, they may turn to painkillers or alcohol to relieve these symptoms or, as our study shows, be more susceptible to substance abuse.

“For people already addicted to substances, addictive behaviours can increase during the peri/menopause, likely because of the loss of sex hormones in the brain. The sad truth is that these women would find greater relief for menopause symptoms and less disruption to their lives were they to have access to appropriate education and treatment, including HRT. “We must do more to make menopause treatment more broadly accessible and to stop women turning to unhelpful and harmful substances in desperation.”

Dr Judith Mohring, consultant psychiatrist, said: “A lot of women find themselves depressed, anxious, and with variable symptoms that are often misdiagnosed as anything other than menopause. Coupled with the demands of mid-life, numerous women I see end up turning to alcohol as a way of coping. Many find that they might be less tolerant to drink than they used to be, and it worsens their symptoms – but it can also be a way of managing what otherwise feels unmanageable. For women with stimulant abuse issues, there's a complex interplay between symptoms and drug use, meaning they can easily slip in their recovery.

Much like mental health and addiction, the menopause wasn’t publicly discussed until recently. The shame around talking about it has led to a lack of research and a significant impact on the real lives of women. What we need is public discussion, more awareness in the profession and a reduction of shame. When women are being cut down in the prime of their lives, due to simple a lack of information about what to expect, how to manage and effective treatments, it affects everyone – couples, families, businesses, and society.”

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Women struggling with the menopause should seek help from their health practitioner in the first instance, but often women in this situation find it hard to talk about it. Dr Louise Newson works tirelessly to ensure women feel empowered to make informed decisions about their treatment and future health by giving them access evidence-based information through the balance app (https://www.balance-menopause.com/balance-app) as well as her latest book The Definitive Guide to the Perimenopause & Menopause.

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