Press Release

Why do Women Use Hormone Therapy?

Review of Landmark Womens Health Survey Provides
New Information on Womens Decision to Take Hormone Therapy


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July 13, 2001 Washington, DC Nearly two in five women who are either in transition or have completed menopause are taking hormone therapy (HT). Of those using HT, the majority report that their decision is based on the recommendation of their physician or other health care provider (57 percent), and more than one-third (36 percent) say that relief of menopausal symptoms weighed heavily in making their decision to use HT. Far fewer women just 13 percent say they decided to use HT to protect against heart disease or osteoporosis. Those are among the findings in "Midlife Women Making Hormone Therapy Decisions," by Aileen MacLaren, CNM, PhD and Nancy Fugate Woods, RN, PhD, FAAN at the University of Washington, School of Nursing.

The paper, published by the Jacobs Institute of Womens Health in the May/June edition of Womens Health Issues, re-examines the Commonwealth Fund 1998 Survey of Womens Health, a leading source of information on the ways that womens circumstances, roles and responsibilities influence their health. The Commonwealth Fund Survey offers a nationally representative sample for exploring HT use and factors related to midlife womens decisions about HT use.

"The importance of this study is that it reveals the underlying determinants of why midlife women choose to take horomone theraphy or not. said MacLaren. "Having health care access and a regular clinician who communicates well and is committed to providing routine health promotion counseling and preventive services appears to be key to womens health maintenance and hormone therapy use."

"The Commonwealth Fund Survey contains a wealth of information, now being published for the first time, regarding the treatment and care of women," said Martha Romans, Executive Director of the Jacobs Institute. " Theres a great deal of confusion among women about whether to take hormone therapy. The Jacobs Institute is focusing on making sure that women receive quality counseling about the risks and benefits of therapy that is tailored to the individual woman.. These findings underscore the importance of having a regular doctor with whom you can speak comfortably and who offers a full range of preventive health services.

Additional findings in "Midlife Women Making Hormone Therapy Decisions" include:

  • Women who have a regular doctor are twice as likely to be HT users as women who do not have regular care.
  • Women with insurance are more than twice as likely as those who are uninsured to use HT - more than 44 percent of insured women are HT users, compared with nearly 20 percent of those without insurance.
  • Women who receive several preventive screening services (an annual exam, pap smear screening, mammography), receive counseling about HT use or counseling about adequate calcium intake, are more likely to use HT.
  • Hormone use is lower among women who experience natural menopause (31 percent) than women who experience surgical menopause (56 percent).
  • Nearly two-thirds of women who report that it is very difficult to talk to their doctor have never used HT.

"A public policy challenge is to promote health care access and a primary health care clinician so that all women will be able to receive appropriate preventive care and counseling - regardless of age or ability to pay," added MacLaren. "With shorten interactions between patients and physicians, and health concerns such as HT use become more complex and less clear cut, fostering communication between patients and providers will become more critical. Self-directed decision aids for women that present health-related menopause issues in an unbiased and evidenced-based way will help women work with their providers to make good, individualized choices about their health."

Other papers in the May/June edition of Womens Health Issues address: womens health issues across the lifespan; the influence of income, education and work status on womens well being; motherhood; caregiving; managed care and womens health; mental health care for women; and prevalence of violence and its implications for womens health.

Womens Health Issues is the official publication of The Jacobs Institute of Womens Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the knowledge, practice and understanding of womens health by making Americas health care system work better for women. For the next few years, the Jacobs Institute is placing an emphasis on managed care, heart disease and menopause cutting edge issues that affect womens health and lives.

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NOTE: Review copies of the articles are available to media from Ridgely Benjamin at 202/371-1999.

For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Ridgely Benjamin
202/371-1999