(CNN) -Depression can come in many shapes and sizes, and tends to affect women more often than men. Now, new research shows there may be a link between the age when a woman enters menopause and whether she develops depression.
Dr. Holly Thacker did not participate in the study, but is a women's health expert at Cleveland Clinic. She says that menopause itself does not pose a risk for depression, but its hormonal fluctuations can increase the risk for someone who is already vulnerable to depression.
"In menopause, women's estrogen levels drop, and since estrogen acts like an MAO inhibitor and helps boost some of the serotonin levels in the brain, people who already have low levels are going to have lower levels," Dr. Thacker said.
Study researchers determined the longer a woman's reproductive years last, or the later she begins menopause, the less her chances are for developing depression in later years. According to the study, a likely reason for this is due to a longer exposure to estrogens that work as a sort of anti-depressant.
Dr. Thacker says that the key to feeling good for most women is maintaining an adequate level of hormones.
"I think that it's good for those women who have a late menopause, or good for those women who continue to have hormone exposure past menopause, because those folks are going to do better in general," Dr. Thacker said.
Dr. Thacker says it's important for doctors to identify women who are at a higher risk for depression due to early menopause, so they may consider hormone replacement therapy.