Science, despite its reputation as cutting edge, sometimes seems pretty behind. Researchers the world over still use the gender binary in almost every study despite the fact that a lot of scientists question the validity of the whole gender category system. Now, a new study confirms what people with uteruses have known since the beginning of time: PMS is a public health issue.
The study, which was published Tuesday in the Archives of Women’s Health, surveyed 238,000 people across 140 countries who use the Flo app to track their menstrual cycles and symptoms in order to determine just how prevalent and debilitating PMS symptoms are. Turns out that PMS is negatively affecting the lives of so many people across the world that the researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University, who conducted the study, say it should be considered a public health issue.
First of all, almost all the people surveyed — 85.28% — reported having some symptoms of PMS, including fatigue, anxiety, and mood swings. According to the findings, 34.84% of participants said that their symptoms interfered with their everyday life sometimes and 28.61% reported that PMS interfered with their daily activities on every day of their menstrual cycle.
In case you’re wondering, PMS isn’t just an American thing. “The incidence of reported premenstrual mood and anxiety symptoms varied significantly by country from a low of 35.1% in Congo to a high of 68.6% in Egypt,” Jennifer Payne, director of the Reproductive Psychiatry Research Program at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and senior author on the study, told EurekAlert. “Understanding whether differences in biology or culture underlie the country level rates will be an important future research direction,” she explained.
While fatigue and mood swings were the most commonly reported PMS-related ailments among all the respondents, there were a lot of other symptoms reported by older participants. Low libido, weight gain, headaches, rashes, absentmindedness, changes in sleep, gastrointestinal issues, and changes in hair were reported by people who may be considered perimenopausal — a period of time that precedes menopause and can last for up to a decade.
Payne told EurekAlert that she is hopeful that the giant magnitude — in both size and scope — of this study cannot be ignored by the scientific community and that the work will lead healthcare providers to become more diligent in treating what are generally referred to obliquely as “women’s problems” more seriously. “Increasing awareness of how common these symptoms are, and that if they impact functioning that there are treatments available, will help women improve their quality of life,” Payne told EurekAlert.
“A majority of women reported that their premenstrual symptoms interfered with their everyday life at least some of the time,” Payne added. “Our study demonstrates that premenstrual mood symptoms are incredibly common worldwide.” In other words, PMS is not imaginary and it doesn’t affect any one culture or class — despite vocal opinions to the contrary — it’s real and widespread and deserves scientific attention.