GW4 Menstrual and Mental Health Research Community

Project Details


Women are nearly three times more likely to suffer from common mental health disorders than men and this risk is highest during their reproductive years.

Menstrual disorders, such as heavy/prolonged bleeding, painful periods, irregular cycles and severe premenstrual symptoms, are associated with lower quality of life and wellbeing, non-attendance at school and work, and higher rates of mental health disorders.

Stigma and a lack of knowledge about what is ‘normal’ means menstrual disorders are often under-reported and under-diagnosed, particularly in low and middle income countries (LMICs), but they affect a large proportion of the population. For example, in the UK, 5% of women aged 30-49 years (>439,380 women) consult their GP each year due to excessive uterine bleeding. In LMICs, 5-20% of women experienced period pain that prevented usual activities.

The association between menstrual and mental health is likely to be extremely complex and multidirectional, involving interactions between genetics, reproductive hormones and other physiological processes, but also environmental factors including lifestyle and social, political and structural influences on health and wellbeing, which will vary between high income countries (HICs) and LMICs.

The field is severely under-researched leaving millions of women with limited support and treatment options. Examples of unaddressed research questions include: which biological pathways are common to both menstrual and mental health disorders? How do lifestyle factors like diet and exercise affect reproductive hormones, and do these then affect mood and mental health? How frequently and to what extent does mood fluctuate over the menstrual cycle? How does access to and affordability of menstrual hygiene products affect mental health and wellbeing?

Addressing these questions and identifying further important areas of investigation necessitates an interdisciplinary approach. Currently, researchers are fragmented between different institutions, working independently on research related to their areas of expertise. Therefore, we are establishing this community to help bring researchers from the South West of the UK together.

Our approach
Our community unites researchers to conduct collaborative programmes of impactful research.
We are driven by a shared set of values:

- Interdisciplinarity: combining, in an open and honest setting, knowledge and expertise to conceptualise challenges in new ways;
- Training: building and sharing skills and creating opportunities to support early career researchers;
- Embedding impact and engagement: building a network of industry and third sector stakeholders to facilitate improvements to the lives of affected women.
Effective start/end date1/06/2130/11/21


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