About

Welcome to the online home of the GW4 Menstrual and Mental Health Research Community!

This research community was established to facilitate collaborative research into how the menstrual cycle interacts with mental health. All community members are based at one of the four GW4 universities: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

You can read more about our activities on our blog.

Why we set up this community

Women are nearly three times more likely to suffer from common mental health disorders than men and this risk is highest during their reproductive years.

Menstrual disorders, such as heavy/prolonged bleeding, painful periods, irregular cycles and severe premenstrual symptoms, are associated with lower quality of life and wellbeing, non-attendance at school and work, and higher rates of mental health disorders.

Stigma and a lack of knowledge about what is ‘normal’ means menstrual disorders are often under-reported and under-diagnosed, particularly in low and middle income countries (LMICs), but they affect a large proportion of the population. For example, in the UK, 5% of women aged 30-49 years (>439,380 women) consult their GP each year due to excessive uterine bleeding. In LMICs, 5-20% of women experienced period pain that prevented usual activities.

The association between menstrual and mental health is likely to be extremely complex and multidirectional, involving interactions between genetics, reproductive hormones and other physiological processes, but also environmental factors including lifestyle and social, political and structural influences on health and wellbeing, which will vary between high income countries (HICs) and LMICs.

The field is severely under-researched leaving millions of women with limited support and treatment options. Examples of unaddressed research questions include: which biological pathways are common to both menstrual and mental health disorders? How do lifestyle factors like diet and exercise affect reproductive hormones, and do these then affect mood and mental health? How frequently and to what extent does mood fluctuate over the menstrual cycle? How does access to and affordability of menstrual hygiene products affect mental health and wellbeing?

Addressing these questions and identifying further important areas of investigation necessitates an interdisciplinary approach. Currently, researchers are fragmented between different institutions, working independently on research related to their areas of expertise. Therefore, we are establishing this community to help bring researchers from the South West of the UK together.

Our approach

Our community unites researchers to conduct collaborative programmes of impactful research.

We are driven by a shared set of values:

  • Interdisciplinarity: combining, in an open and honest setting, knowledge and expertise to conceptualise challenges in new ways;
  • Training: building and sharing skills and creating opportunities to support early career researchers;
  • Embedding impact and engagement: building a network of industry and third sector stakeholders to facilitate improvements to the lives of affected women.

Community members

The Menstrual and Mental Health Research Community is:

University of Bristol

Click here to read more about the Bristol team

  • Dr Gemma Sharp – Senior Lecturer in Molecular Epidemiology, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Bristol Medical School (Lead applicant)
  • Dr Sarah Sullivan – Research Fellow in Primary Care Mental Health, Centre for Academic mental Health, Bristol Medical School
  • Prof Abigail Fraser – Professor of Epidemiology, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Bristol Medical School
  • Prof Laura Howe – Professor of Epidemiology, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Bristol Medical School
  • Prof Deborah Lawlor – Professor of Epidemiology, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Bristol Medical School
  • Dr Kayleigh Easey – Senior Research Associate in Genetic Epidemiology, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Bristol Medical School
  • Dr Rebecca Richmond – Research Fellow in Cancer Epidemiology, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Bristol Medical School
  • Kate Bowen-Viner – PhD student, School for Policy Studies, Bristol Medical School
  • Dr Lindsey Pike – Impact and Policy Engagement Manager, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Bristol Medical School
  • Dr Gemma Ford – Lecturer in Translational Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School
  • Prof Maria Fannin – Professor of Human Geography, School of Geographical Sciences
  • Gemma Sawyer – Public Health MSc student and soon-to-be PhD student, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Bristol Medical School

University of Bath

  • Dr Melanie Channon – Lecturer in Social Policy, Department of Social and Policy Sciences, Centre for Development Studies
  • Dr Jennifer Thomson – Lecturer in Comparative Politics, Department of Politics Languages and International Studies
  • Dr Frances Amery – Lecturer in Politics, Department of Social and Policy Sciences, Centre for Development Studies
  • Ignacio Franco-Vega – PhD student in Social and Policy Sciences, Department of Social and Policy Sciences, Centre for Development Studies

Cardiff University

  • Dr Arianna Di Florio – Clinical Senior Lecturer, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neuroscience
  • Jessica Yang – Research Assistant, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neuroscience
  • Chloe Apsey – Psychology assistant, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neuroscience

University of Exeter

Click here to read more about the Exeter team

  • Dr Anna Murray – Associate Professor in Human Genetics, University of Exeter Medical School
  • Dr Kate Ruth – Research Fellow in the Genetics of Complex Traits, University of Exeter Medical School
  • Dr Jess Tyrrell – Senior Lecturer in Genetic Epidemiology, University of Exeter Medical School

Funding

The Menstrual and Mental Health Research Community is funded by a GW4 Generator Award.