Aging is a phenomenon affecting all organs and systems throughout the body, driven by rising levels of molecular damage. The variation in aging between individuals is largely determined by variations in the overall burden of such damage, the compound interest of small differences arising from lifestyle choices and happenstance such as infection in the first half of life. Thus for any given individual, manifestations and measures of aging tend to be fairly well correlated. That doesn't necessarily tell us anything about causation. So in this study, in which the researchers look at two very high level manifestations of aging, menopause and life span, there is probably no direct thread of causation at all. These are downstream manifestations of the summed effects of every cause of aging.
It is a well-accepted fact in the medical community that both type 2 diabetes and early onset of natural menopause may be associated with early death. Emerging evidence shows an association between age at menopause and diabetes, with studies reporting almost a two-fold increased risk of type 2 diabetes with early onset of menopause. To date, however, there are no other known studies that have quantified (calculated the number of years lived with and without diabetes) the combined association of early menopause and type 2 diabetes with life expectancy.
In this study involving 3,650 postmenopausal women, the difference in life expectancy was compared in women experiencing early, normal, and late menopause, as well as in those with and without diabetes. Compared with late menopause (defined as menopause that occurs at age 55 years and older), the difference in life expectancy for women who experienced early menopause (defined as menopause that occurs at age 44 years or younger) was -3.5 years overall and -4.6 years in women without diabetes. Compared with age at normal menopause (defined as menopause that occurs at 45-54 years of age), the difference in life expectancy for women who experienced early menopause was -3.1 years overall and -3.3 years in women without diabetes.
The authors suggest the need for future research to examine the mechanisms behind this association to help tailor prevention and treatment strategies that improve women's health across all age categories of menopause.