Government Supports Advertising Standards’ Declaration that Menopause is ‘a Serious Medical Condition’

Well ladies, it’s finally happened – a woman’s transition through menopause has been defined as ‘a serious medical condition’. This ruling was published by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) on 18 September 2017.

The Advertising Standards Authority Limited is deemed by the Government to be the ‘Established Means’ – a quasi legal term, not sure what it really means – and it has declared that menopause is a serious medical condition and treatment should only be carried out by a medical doctor. This is all done with the full support of the Government, according to Margot James, MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers & Corporate Responsibility. So, no going off to your local health shop or complementary health practitioner to mention the word menopause because they are going to have to tell you that it’s serious and you must go to your GP.

How can a Minister for small business and the Advertising Standards Authority be supporting or making decisions about stages of life and turning them into medical conditions? I though this was the domain of health Authorities – with a capital A!

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) is such an authority that I thought provided this type of guidance. Their definition of menopause is as follows:

Menopause A biological stage in a woman’s life that occurs when she stops menstruating and reaches the end of her natural reproductive life. Usually it is defined as having occurred when a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months (for women reaching menopause naturally). The changes associated with menopause occur when the ovaries stop maturing eggs and secreting oestrogen and progesterone.

from https://

… and I’m not seeing anything about it being a serious medical condition. Perhaps the ASA would also like to rule on Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and puberty? Are they to be considered as serious medical conditions too?

What also makes me wonder about this declaration is that there are no references. If this were something that we should sit up and take note of surely it would reference NICE or another medical authority? I didn’t think the the ASA employed expertise of this nature or that its remit was to include changing the medical status of natural stages of life to serious medical conditions. Interestingly, Baroness Deech has observed, “The ASA is not a government agency, not elected, and not overseen … It is not accountable to anyone outside the [advertising] industry.” There are also a number of MPs who are on record as being unhappy with activities of the ASA and they include: John Glen (C), Holly Lynch (L) and Jim Shannon (DUP). But, this is an official declaration by the ASA and as Lord Smith, Chair of ASA, has said in the Houses of Parliament, the few challenges to the ASA have been almost entirely unsuccessful. NICE had better adjust its wording regarding menopause and bow to the superior knowledge of the ASA.

What does it mean for ‘women of a certain age’?

Does it mean that you could go to your GP and point out this Ruling, ask to be signed off for the next 5 years and claim appropriate benefits?

Is the Government rolling this out so that it becomes an official medical decision?

Is the Government really stigmatising women of a certain age as living with ‘a serious medical condition’? This could potentially impact a significant percentage of the UK’s workforce.

Something else to ponder is that the ASA has also recently widened its remit to include being a ‘gender monitor’ for advertising and media. What is this declaration saying about its ability to be a gender monitor when it doesn’t mention anything about andropause – the male menopause? (Andropause is when a man reaches middle age and starts to notice the effects of his testosterone levels dropping.) In order to be fair to both sexes I think the ASA should make a ruling about andropause too if it is to be raised to the level of health advisor to NICE and the NHS.

What do you think?


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