A recent global study overview reveals that approximately 1.6% of women and girls suffer from symptomatic premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Researchers led by Dr. Thomas Reilly of the University of Oxford examined studies from around the world to determine how many women and girls met the strict diagnostic criteria for the condition. The data indicates that this was the case for approximately 1.6%, which corresponds to around 31 million women and girls worldwide.
A higher proportion – 3.2% – had provisional diagnoses in which there was suspicion of the condition, but the symptoms were not measured over a longer period to meet the criteria for a confirmed diagnosis. The findings were published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
PMDD symptoms include mood swings (such as depression and anxiety), physical symptoms (such as breast tenderness and joint pain), and cognitive problems (difficulty concentrating or memory loss).
Dr. Reilly, a Clinical Research Training Fellow of the Medical Research Council (MRC) at the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry and a specialist at the National Female Hormone Clinic at Maudsley Hospital, said that the proportion of affected individuals could be higher than 1.6%.
„Since the diagnostic criteria are so strict, it is likely that there is an underestimation of the lifetime prevalence of PMDD, and it is possible that many more women and girls remain undiagnosed. Nevertheless, the data underscores that there is still a substantial minority of women with PMDD at any given time,“ he said, adding, „symptomatic PMDD, which is strongly linked to suicidal thoughts.“
“There is scarce training on PMDD for psychiatrists or even medical students. Patients often fall into gaps in clinical care, such as between gynecology and psychiatric services. Even the knowledge of general practitioners about PMDD varies widely. In psychiatry, we rarely consider whether a patient’s symptoms may be related to hormonal changes.“
„We need better awareness and training of healthcare professionals for this debilitating yet highly treatable condition, so that patients can benefit from effective, evidence-based treatment and support.“
Dr. Thomas Reilly, University of Oxford
The researchers used data from 50,659 participants in 44 studies across six continents. They say that the data challenges many biases about the disease, including that it is a medicalization of „normal“ menstrual symptoms or that it is a „Western cultural syndrome.“
Clare Knox, an organizational psychologist, co-author of the article, and a PMDD experience, said: „In a world where everyone’s health and well-being are important, we cannot overlook the realization that approximately 31 million women worldwide may silently be struggling with premenstrual dysphoria, a condition that profoundly affects their daily lives.
„This staggering number is a wake-up call and emphasizes the urgent need for improved diagnosis procedures, effective treatment plans, and robust support systems for those affected. Now more than ever, it is important for us to invest in comprehensive research and public health strategies to address and cope with PMDD, ensuring that these millions of women do not face their issues in secret, but with the full support and understanding of a society that prioritizes their health.“
Reilly, TJ, et al. (2024). Die Prävalenz der prämenstruellen dysphorischen Störung: Systematische Überprüfung und Metaanalyse. Zeitschrift für affektive Störungen. doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2024.01.066.