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As well as infertility, excessive hair growth and menstrual cycle irregularities, PCOS can cause psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression – symptoms that often continue long after the physical pain has subsided.
For the study, researchers from the University of Oulu in Finland analysed data taken from 5,889 women at the age of 31, then again when they turned 46. Participants were asked to answer a questionnaire (known as 15D) which detailed their life satisfaction and health status (e.g. weight, height and the frequency of their periods.)
They found that women with PCOS had a poorer quality of life than those without the condition, with mental distress the most common contributing factor
"Most PCOS studies focus on women during reproductive age, but symptoms like mental health issues and excess hair growth continue into the late forties," the study's lead author Dr Terhi Piltone said in a statement. "Our study focuses on this population and shows that women with PCOS have lower life satisfaction and poorer health up to their late reproductive years."
The authors suggest that these women be treated through a multidisciplinary approach, although more research is needed into PCOS and its long-term effects.
"More interventions are needed to improve the quality of life for women with PCOS who are in their late thirties and forties. These women should be screened regularly for mental health issues and treated for other distressing symptoms like excess hair growth," Piltonen added.