A new study has uncovered that women in the perimenopausal stage, the period before menopause characterized by the gradual decline in ovarian function and the cessation of reproductive years, are at an increased risk of experiencing depression.

Perimenopause occurs around three to five years before the onset of menopause and lasts until one year after a woman's last period. During this stage, estrogen and progesterone levels start to fluctuate, causing menopausal symptoms, including mood swings and irregular menstrual cycles.

Earlier studies have shown that different menopausal stages are associated with an elevated risk for depressive symptoms and diagnoses.

According to the latest study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, there is a 40% increased risk of depression at the perimenopausal stage compared to the premenopausal stage. However, the study did not find a significantly increased risk for depression in the post-menopausal stage, compared to premenopausal women.

The findings were based on a meta-analysis of seven studies involving 9,141 women from across the world that evaluated how different stages of menopause were associated with depression.

"This study shows that women in the perimenopausal stage are significantly more likely to experience depression than either before or after this stage. Our findings emphasize the importance of acknowledging that women in this life stage are more vulnerable to experiencing depression. It also underlines the need to provide support and screening for women to help address their mental health needs effectively," senior author Dr. Roopal Desai said in a news release.

"Women spend years of their lives dealing with menopausal symptoms that can have a huge impact on their wellbeing and quality of life. Our findings show just how significantly the mental health of perimenopausal women can suffer during this time. We need greater awareness and support to ensure they receive appropriate help and care both medically, in the workplace and at home," corresponding author, Professor Aimee Spector, said.

However, there are certain limitations of the study. Criteria and measures used in different studies for evaluating menopausal stages and depression vary, leading to variability in some results. Also, there were only limited studies to compare perimenopause to post-menopause stages.