Turn down the heat

25 August 2021
New report on perimenopause and thermal discomfort in the workplace
University of Sydney researchers find women during menopausal transition require special consideration of their thermal requirements to ensure a comfortable working environment.

Key points:

-       Women of perimenopausal age expressed warmer thermal sensations than other occupants (reference group) in the same environments

-       Women of perimenopausal age expressed a preference for cooler thermal environments

-       The neutral room temperature of women of perimenopausal age was approximately 2°C lower than that of the reference group

The most common symptom of menopause transition, the hot flush, describes a transient and acute sensation of heat spreading from the head to chest and arms. As the menopausal transition (perimenopause) involves the processes that lead to reproductive ageing, hot flushes are common in middle-aged women who represent a large percentage of the modern workforce.

The research was led by Professor Richard de Dear from the University’s Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Laboratory, School of Architecture, Design and Planning and is published in Indoor Air.

The research revealed that a better understanding of the thermal requirements of this important demographic in offices is critical to provide a comfortable and productive working environment.
Professor Richard de Dear, Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Laboratory

The researchers believe women during menopausal transition require special consideration of their personal thermal requirements to ensure a comfortable working environment because they experience pronounced fluctuating hormones, usually resulting in intense hot flush symptoms in the years leading up to menopause.

Researchers found that distinct indoor climate zones, desk fans, and flexible workplace dress codes are obvious strategies to accommodate diverse thermal comfort requirements in shared workplaces.

Future research will be focused specifically on symptomatic and asymptomatic perimenopausal or menopausal women using a rigorous, controlled climate chamber research design.

About the study

In this field study conducted in office settings in Sydney, Australia, questionnaires were collected from a sample of 1,359 office workers. Real-time indoor environmental observations including air temperature, mean radiant temperature, air velocity and relative humidity were also collected and matched with each questionnaire. Respondents were classified into two groups – women of perimenopausal age (40-50 years of age) and the remainder (male and female combined), which served as the reference group for comparison.

Women of perimenopausal age reported feeling warmer and higher levels of thermal dissatisfaction when compared to the reference group in the same indoor environment. Further, women of perimenopausal age preferred cooler thermal environments than the reference group.

This paper was co-authored by Jing Xiong and Richard de Dear from the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, the University of Sydney, Sarah Carter and Ollie Jay from Faculty of Medicine and Health, the University of Sydney, Edward Arens and Hui Zhang from the University of California, Berkeley, and Max Deuble, PHD student.


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