As women enter menopause, hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms, and they are a real nuisance. Hot flashes keep you up at night, they can be embarrassing, they are uncomfortable, unpleasant, and unpredictable. But what isn’t talked about or even realized is the enormous impact they have on women in the workforce – until now.
A new paper published online in the journal Menopause released August investigates a very simple question: What is the cost of not treating hot flashes.
Researcher Philip Sarrel, MD and colleagues studied over half a million women who either worked for Fortune 500 companies or who were the dependents of people who worked for those companies between 1999 and 2011.
Group A consisted of 252,273 women treated for hot flashes; Group B consisted of the same number of women who were not treated for hot flashes. Ninety-five percent of the women were between the ages of 45 and 54 years. The women were matched for age, race, income, marital status and region of the country. They were tracked for a 12 month window of time if they had a code for VMS or vasomotor symptoms – a medical term for hot flashes, and it was noted it the women were being treated for their hot flashes. The form of treatment was not noted.
The investigators wanted to know if and how often the women came back to their doctors over the next 12 months. Here is what they found.
The quarter of a million women who were not treated for their hot flashes came back to their doctor’s offices for reasons both related to hot flashes and for other reasons approximately 1.5 million more times than the women whose hot flashes were being treated.
The estimated cost of these visits based on insurance claims was $339,559,458 greater for the women whose hot flashes were not being treated than the women whose hot flashes were being treated.
There are at least 9 million women in the United States with hot flashes that affect their ability to function, which is 36 times the quarter of a million women included in this study. Extrapolating the costs, the total impact of not treating hot flashes would come to a staggering $14 Billion.
Claims for work loss and workers compensation adds $27,668,410 in one year. If you multiply this number by 36 it is almost another billion dollars.
Today there are approximately 70 million women in the workforce who comprise about half the people working.
All of this means that not treating hot flashes is far more than a nuisance. It is a major source of losing women from the workforce and a major addition to the cost of healthcare.
This paper titled “Incremental direct and indirect costs of untreated vasomotor symptoms” will be available via the Publish Ahead of Print section of the Menopause journal’s Web site on Wednesday August 27, 2014 by 9 am Eastern Standard Time.
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