A Systematic Literature Review of Factors Affecting the Timing of Menarche: The Potential for Climate Change to Impact Women's Health

Abstract [from journal]

Menarche is the first occurrence of a woman's menstruation, an event that symbolizes reproductive capacity and the transition from childhood into womanhood. The global average age for menarche is 12 years and this has been declining in recent years. Many factors that affect the timing menarche in girls could be affected by climate change. A systematic literature review was performed regarding the timing of menarche and four publication databases were interrogated: EMBASE, SCOPUS, PubMed, and Cochrane Reviews. Themes were identified from 112 articles and related to environmental causes of perturbations in menarche (either early or late), disease causes and consequences of perturbations, and social causes and consequences. Research from climatology was incorporated to describe how climate change events, including increased hurricanes, avalanches/mudslides/landslides, and extreme weather events could alter the age of menarche by disrupting food availability or via increased toxin/pollutant release. Overall, our review revealed that these perturbations in the timing of menarche are likely to increase the disease burden for women in four key areas: mental health, fertility-related conditions, cardiovascular disease, and bone health. In summary, the climate does have the potential to impact women's health through perturbation in the timing of menarche and this, in turn, will affect women's risk of disease in future.