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Higher Depressive Symptoms in Irregular Menstrual Cycles: Converging Evidence from Cross-Sectional and Prospective Assessments.

Psychopathology 2024 January 10
BACKGROUND: Menstrual cycle regularity is an important marker of reproductive health and associated with physiological and psychological illnesses, as well as experiencing stress. We hypothesized that individuals with irregular menstrual cycles report higher depressive symptom severity, after controlling for stress occurrence.

METHODS: The hypothesis was examined through two measurement approaches: a cross-sectional and a prospective, longitudinal study. In the cross-sectional study, participants (n = 394) reported depressive symptoms and their overall menstrual cycle regularity. In the longitudinal study, participants (n = 77) completed questionnaires on depressive symptoms and stress during the mid-follicular and periovulatory phase of one menstrual cycle. Depressive symptoms were compared between participants with regular and irregular cycles through a Welch t test and an ANCOVA.

RESULTS: Participants with irregular menstrual cycles reported more depressive symptoms in the cross-sectional analysis. Similarly, in the longitudinal analysis, the group with a current irregular menstrual cycle reported more depressive symptoms after controlling for stress occurrence. When including only complete data sets without multiple imputation (n = 52), the direction of the effects remained but did not reach statistical significance.

CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate an association between depressive symptoms and menstrual cycle irregularity. Limitations were that although we investigated the menstrual cycle prospectively, it would have been more precise to include two or more cycles and daily sex hormone measurements. Further limitations were the suboptimal statistical power and the data collection during the COVID pandemic. We give recommendations on how to incorporate the association of depressive symptoms and cycle irregularity in future study designs on women's mental health.

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