The average age for menopause is 52, with anything between the ages of 48 and 54 constituting a normal range. Apart from that, there is little general agreement on what the normal 'symptoms' of menopause are.
Depending on the research you read, the 'symptoms' can range from just a hot flush through to as many as 40 reactions, encompassing the physical, mental and sexual, such as hot flushes, depression, a fall in libido, and brittle bones.
In one study, 47 per cent of women had no symptoms in the period before the onset of the menopause, while 21 per cent of post-menopausal women said they never suffered any effects.
Around 20 per cent of women experience menopausal symptoms that are severe enough to seek medical help.
Very little research has been done on the perimenopausal period - the time immediately before the menopause actually begins - but it's clear that many symptoms are associated with ageing, but which are not necessarily linked to the menopause itself.
In one study, some of these symptoms - such as hot flushes and irritability - actually disappeared as the woman aged. Vaginal dryness and irregular bleeding are also associated with the perimenopausal period, and yet may not be directly caused by any hormonal changes that are occurring at the same time.
Overall, there is a tendency to blame the menopause for a whole variety of health problems that a woman may be suffering. This view is supported by one research among men who were in their early 50s, which discovered they were complaining of similar symptoms, such as a decrease in libido, bladder problems, dry hair and skin, panic attacks, depression, aching muscles and joints.