Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Previous research suggests that menopausal women often complain of increased physical symptoms, depression, and memory difficulties. Reports of subsequent improvement in memory following estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) among the clinical population abound, suggesting a possible link between estrogen and memory performance.

The purpose of this study was to a) replicate and extend previous findings showing a possible link between memory performance and menopause status, b) compare the levels of personal adjustment in terms of physical and emotional symptoms among women at three different phases of natural menopause, c) examine the effects of individual differences that may have some impact on memory performance, and d) explore relationships between the individual's adjustment and the quality of interpersonal relationships in middle-aged women.

Forty-eight women between the ages 45 and 55 performed cognitive tasks that were designed to assess memory abilities and completed a set of five questionnaires that were compiled to assess individual functioning. Height, weight, and body fat content were measured as measures of physical fitness. It was hypothesized that the difference in memory performance would be accounted for by the effects of decreasing estrogen level as reflected by menopausal status, perhaps slightly mediated by verbal ability and level of physical fitness.

Multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA) were used to compare memory performance, individual adjustment, and interpersonal relationships among the three groups. Significant effects of menopause status were found for working memory capacity measures. Post-menopausal subjects recalled a significantly higher percentage of passages than pre-menopausal subjects. No significant effects of menopause status were found for individual adjustment (i.e., physical and emotional symptoms, the quality of interpersonal relationships).

Results suggest that fluctuating hormone levels may have some impact on physical symptoms, as well as emotional and cognitive functioning to some extent during the peri-menopausal phase. Results also seem to offer support to the notion that estrogen replacement therapy may have some ameliorating effect when the level of endogenous estrogen decreases during the post-menopausa! phase. Future research should examine effects of other sex hormones on cognitive functioning as well as examining women’s experiential interpretation of these qualitative changes occurring during middle-age.