Premenstrual Symptoms among Chinese Female Undergraduates: Relationship with Stress and Mental Health Abstract

AM LEE, R WEI, KF CHUNG, KT HUI, SK IP, HL LEUNG, HL LIU, SY LUI, YH NG, MF WONG, TC WONG

Objective:
Premenstrual symptoms are associated with substantial distress and functional impairment. Although studies on premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are advancing at a rapid pace in the Western literature, little is known of the condition among Chinese women. Studies among Western women suggested that psychological factors play an important role in PMS. The present study examined premenstrual symptoms among Chinese female undergraduates in light of their relationship with stress and general mental health.

Methods:
A total of 279 Chinese female undergraduates were surveyed. Symptoms of PMS were assessed by the Chinese Perimenstrual Distress Questionnaire. Both the number and the severity of premenstrual symptoms were assessed. Stress and general mental health were measured by the Life Experience Survey and the General Health Questionnaire respectively.

Results:
Symptoms of PMS were common among Chinese female undergraduates. More than three-quarters (76%) of the respondents reported at least one premenstrual symptom. A total of 11.5% reported more than 15 symptoms. The most commonly reported symptoms were abdominal cramps, mood swing, irritability, fatigue, and losing temper easily. A weak but significant relationship was found between the total number and severity of premenstrual symptoms on the one hand, and stress and poor mental health on the other.

Conclusion:
Contrary to the traditional notion that PMS is a Western culture-bound phenomenon, symptoms of PMS were found to be common among Chinese female undergraduates. Both emotional and somatic symptoms were prominent, suggesting both similarities and differences from the situation in the West. In this cohort, premenstrual symptoms were associated with stress and poor mental health. However, their relationship is weak, suggesting that other factors are implicated in the development of premenstrual symptoms, and that the pathophysiology may be different from that among Western women.

Hong Kong J Gynaecol Obstet Midwifery 2005; 5:10-21

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