Hormone therapy could prevent the onset of depression among women going through the menopause, according to a new study.
A year of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was found to help stop symptoms of the condition emerging among those entering the menopause or in the early stages of post-menopause, researchers said.
The paper, published in journal JAMA Psychiatry, suggests medics could in the future consider prescribing hormone therapy to counter the increased risk of depression.
Research has previously indicated the benefits of HRT for managing existing depressive symptoms.
The study, authored by Dr Susan Girdler and Dr David Rubinow of the University of North Carolina, examined 172 women without depression between the ages of 45 and 60 who were in the transition to menopause or early post-menopause from 2010 and 2016.
It found fewer women given HRT developed symptoms of depression than those given a placebo.
Women in the early stages of menopause and those experiencing other life stresses benefited the most from the treatment, the researchers said.
Professor Tony Cleare, from King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, said: "HRT reduced the proportion of women who experienced significant mood symptoms from about one in three to about one in six.
"This was especially seen in women at the beginning of menopause, and in those experiencing other life stresses."
He added the effect occurred regardless of how well HRT controlled other menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, although the treatment can cause worsened menstrual bleeding.
He said: "HRT is already recommended in the UK by NICE to treat symptoms of low mood during the menopause, so this research adds to the evidence by showing HRT can also prevent mood symptoms.
"Nevertheless, the decision to use HRT should always be based on a woman's individual circumstances and preferences, weighing up the likely risks and benefits."