You might laugh and appreciate the joke that men cause menopause, but in all seriousness, men could in fact be the very scoundrels that cause women to go through menopause.
Decades of research and study have led biologist Rama Singh and his team to conclude that men cause women to experience menopause by consistently deciding to marry younger women. My mom is actually five years older than my dad, but one of my uncles is 12 years older than my aunt, and this isn’t than uncommon to see in couples.
The conclusions reached by Rama Singh and his team are backed by computer models developed by colleagues Jonathan Stone and Richard Morton. They reveal that menopause is an unfortunate outcome of natural selection. Up until this culmination of research was analyzed by Singh, it was typically thought that infertility related to menopause was caused by menopause, but this new analysis suggests that menopause begins due to a lack of reproduction.
No one has ever really been able to say why menopause happens, says Singh, and human are the only species to experience menopause. One of the most common theories is called the “grandmother theory” which says women become infertile later in life to help raise and nurture grandchildren, but Singh says that this doesn’t sync up with the evolutionary process. Humans are supposed to evolve to become better or to adapt.
"How do you evolve infertility?” Says Singh, “It is contrary to the whole notion of natural selection. Natural selection selects for fertility, for reproduction -- not for stopping it.” Since more men are looking for younger mates, older women are often denied the chance at reproduction, which over time develops into the inability to bear children presenting as menopause. However, menopause doesn’t just mean infertility, it also means an increased risk of illness as well.
Singh says that a part of his study is not just to prove that menopause is a result of natural selection, but also to prove that if it developed over time, it can be reversed over time as well. In the future, women may not have to experience menopause and may be able to reverse the hormonal effects and stave off illness. Singh also points out that if the roles were reversed and women were the ones that typically chose younger mates, men might be the ones experiencing a form of menopause today. Isn’t that an interesting thought?
- Richard A. Morton, Jonathan R. Stone, Rama S. Singh. Mate Choice and the Origin of Menopause. PLoS Computational Biology, 2013; 9 (6): e1003092 DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003092
- McMaster University (2013, June 14). Menopause may be an unintended outcome of men's preference for younger mates. ScienceDaily.