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Endocrine and psychosocial moderators of mindfulness-based stress reduction for the prevention of perimenopausal depressive symptoms: A randomized controlled trial

Jennifer L Gordon 1Maria Halleran 2Shadi Beshai 2Tory A Eisenlohr-Moul 3Joanne Frederick 4Tavis S Campbell 5

Psychoneuroendocrinology doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2021.105277. 


Background: The menopause transition is associated with an increased risk of depressive symptoms. The current study aimed to test whether Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, an 8-week group intervention involving meditation and yoga, might reduce the risk of depressive symptoms among perimenopausal women. A secondary aim was to examine baseline characteristics, including sensitivity to estradiol fluctuation, as a moderator of treatment effects.

Methods: 104 healthy women from the community in the menopause transition were enrolled and randomized to MBSR (n = 52) or a waitlist control condition (n = 52). Randomization was carried out using a random number generator and opaque sealed envelopes. Depressive symptoms, the main outcome, were assessed every two weeks for 6 months using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). The occurrence of an elevated CES-D score (≥16) and of a major depressive episode were pre-identified secondary outcomes. The following surveys were used to assess additional outcomes of interest every two months: the Perceived Stress Scale, Spielberger Trait Anxiety Inventory, Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale, and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Baseline characteristics examined as potential moderators of treatment benefit included: baseline CES-D score, past depressive episodes, recent stressful life events, a history of physical or sexual abuse, and emotional sensitivity to reproductive hormone fluctuation. Outcome assessors were blinded to the participants’ assigned treatment arm.

Results: Outcome data were available for 44 women assigned to MBSR and 51 women in the waitlist condition. Women randomized to MBSR reported fewer depressive symptoms, less perceived stress, less anxiety, increased resilience, and improved sleep (ps < 0.001). Furthermore, several baseline characteristics predicted a greater mood benefit of MBSR, including: a history of major depression (p for the interaction <0.001), a greater number of recent stressful life events (p < .001), being in the early menopause transition (p = .002), and an increased emotional sensitivity to reproductive hormone fluctuation (p = .004). There were no group differences in the occurrence of major depressive episodes (p > .05).

Conclusions: MBSR appears to be an effective intervention for the prevention of depressive symptoms in the menopause transition.