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Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Lynnette Leidy Sievert

IAS Fellow at Trevelyan College, Durham University (May 2012)

Professor Lynnette Leidy Sievert, a noted scholar of women's health and the menopausal transition, has degrees in nursing, Spanish, and biological anthropology with a PhD from the University at Albany, SUNY, where she won a Presidential Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award. She has served on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts since 1993, and has lectured for the College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ohio University, and for La Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

Sievert has published extensively on variation in age at menopause and symptoms at midlife. In addition to her book, Menopause: A Biocultural Perspective (2006), she is the author or co-author of over 50 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters. Her most recent chapter on the evolution of post-reproductive life was published in the edited Cambridge volume, Reproduction and Adaptation (2011).

Sievert's fieldwork on menopause has spanned the globe, including upstate New York; western Massachusetts; Puebla, Mexico; Asunción, Paraguay; the Selska Valley of Slovenia; Hilo, Hawaii; and Sylhet, Bangaldesh. A unifying theme has been the study of hot flashes during the menopausal transition through questionnaires, body diagrams, laboratory polygraphs, and ambulatory monitors. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Women's International Science Collaboration Program, the Faculty Research Grants program and the Center for Research on Families at UMass Amherst.

Most recently, Sievert was awarded the 2010-2011 Samuel F. Conti Faculty Fellowship for Excellence in Research from UMass Amherst, and the 2010 UMass Amherst Faculty Convocation Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity. She was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2009. In 2008, she was given the Vasomotor Symptoms Research Award from the North American Menopause Society, and twice before won the North American Menopause Society Young Investigator Award. Sievert has twice been given the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Outstanding Teacher Award, UMass Amherst.

Professor Sievert has served on the editorial boards of Menopause, journal of the North American Menopause Society, the American Journal of Human Biology, and the book seriesLife Course, Culture, and Aging: Global Transformation. She also reviews for the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Annals of Human Biology, Cimacteric, Maturitas, and the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology. She is a past member of the Executive Committee of the Human Biology Association, and is currently an elected member of the North American Menopause Society Board of Trustees.

She is currently working on a manuscript about the evolution of post-reproductive life. During her time at the IAS, Professor Sievert will be writing with Gillian R. Bentley to disseminate their findings from a recently completed study of reproductive aging and symptom experience among Bangaldeshi women living in Bangladesh, Bangaldeshi immigrants in London, and their white London neighbours.

Fellow's Home Page


Professor Lynnette Sievert Publications

Sievert, L., Brown, D. (2016) Biological Measures of Human Experience across the Lifespan: making visible the invisible. New York: Springer.

Dhanoya, T., Sievert, L., Muttukrishna, S., Begum, K., Sharmeen, T., Kasim, A., Chowdhury, O. & Bentley, G. (2016). ‘Hot flushes and reproductive hormone levels during the menopausal transition’, Maturitas, 89, pp. 43-51.

Sievert, L., Begum, K., Sharmeen, T., Murphy, L., Whitcomb, B.W., Chowdhury, O., Muttukrishna, S. & Bentley, G(2016) 'Hot flash report and measurement among Bangladeshi migrants, their London neighbors, and their community of origin', American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Begum, K., Muttukrishna, S., Sievert, LL., Sharmeen, T., Murphy, L., Chowdhury, O., Kasim, A., Gunu, R., Bentley. G.R (2015) ‘Ethnicity or environment: effects of migration on ovarian reserve among Bangladeshi women in the United Kingdom’, Fertility and Sterility, 105(3), pp.744-754.

Sievert, L. (2013) 'Subjective and objective measures of hot flashes', American Journal of Human Biology, 25(5), pp. 573-580.

Begum, K., Bentley, G., Chowdhury, O., Murphy, L.,Muttukrishna, S., Puleo, E., Sievert, LL., Sharmeen, T (2013) ‘Life Course Effects on Age at Menopause Among Bangladeshi Sedentees and Migrants to the UK’, American Journal of Human Biology, 25(1), pp. 83-92.

Bertone-Johnson, E., Sievert, LL (2012) ‘Perimenstrual symptoms and symptoms at midlife in Puebla,Mexico’, Climacteric, 16(1), pp. 169-178.

Brown, DE., Morrison, LA., Rahberg, N., Reza, A., Sievert, LL (2012) ‘Prevalence and determinants of headaches in Hawaii: the Hilo women’s health study’, Annals of Human Biology, 39(4), pp. 305-314.

IAS Insights Paper


This essay approaches the broad topic of whether to privilege subjectivity or objectivity in the measurement of physical experience. The topic is approached from a relatively narrow focus on the measurement of hot flashes during the menopausal transition. Hot flashes are experienced as sudden, generally unpleasant, sensations of heat by up to 75% of women in the US. They are caused by transient episodes of sweating and vasodilation. Numerous surveys have been carried out with standardized questionnaires to query hot-flash experience (presence/absence) and bothersomeness. Biometric measurement of skin temperature, pulse or sweating provides an alternative source of information about symptom experience. At times, women demonstrate hot flashes that are biometrically documented, but do not experience, identify or label the phenomenon to be a hot flash. This may be because self-reported hot-flash frequencies are influenced by personal perceptions and by the cultural significance applied to subjectively perceived phenomena. In contrast, objective measures of hot flashes are largely unbiased by cultural context. Which is the true measure of a hot flash – subjective report or a change in the level of sternal skin conductance? The literature of phenomenology is explored with an emphasis on the problem of hot-flash assessment. This interest in hot flashes can be applied to the measurement of other conditions that can be both subjectively experienced and objectively measured, such as pain, stress, memory and sleep quality.

Insights Paper