Depression Linked

To Early Menopause

CHICAGO -- Women with a lifetime history of depression run a risk of entering menopause years earlier than usual, researchers said yesterday, putting them at risk sooner in life for osteoporosis and other health problems.

The report from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said the early transition appears to be contingent on both the severity of the depression and medication use, though the exact reason for the effect remains unknown.

Bernard Harlow, chief author of the study, said in an interview it is possible depression has a direct impact on the production of hormones. That phenomenon has already been documented in women suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The finding is important, he added, because prolonged lower levels of estrogen in such women increase the risk of bone-mass loss, in addition to limiting the child-bearing chances for those who may be waiting until later in life for motherhood.

"We observed a 20 percent increase in risk of entering perimenopause sooner among women with a lifetime history of depression," he added in a statement.

Perimenopause typically begins during the fourth decade of life, when women begin to experience changes in their usual menstrual cycle and may also begin to see early menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and sweats.

Transition to menopause around age 50 is considered normal.

Physicians Divided

On Drug Advertising

A government survey of physicians' attitudes toward the flood of prescription drug advertising to consumers has found the profession divided.

Forty percent of physicians said the "direct-to-consumer" advertising had a somewhat or very positive impact on their practices and on patients. Nearly a third said the ads' effect was somewhat or very negative, according to the survey released yesterday.

Pharmaceutical companies say the promotions educate consumers and prompt them to seek treatment when otherwise they would not. Critics counter that the TV commercials and print ads result in unnecessary prescriptions for expensive drugs, driving up health care costs.

As part of a review of its advertising policies, the Food and Drug Administration surveyed 500 physicians -- 250 general practitioners and 250 specialists.

Asked about the overall impact of consumer-directed advertising, 3 percent of doctors responded that it was very positive and 37 percent said somewhat positive. Five percent said the ads' impact was very negative and 27 percent said somewhat negative. Twenty-eight percent said the advertising had no effect.

-- Compiled from Reuters