The prevalence of dysmenorrhoea and the resulting disability and absenteeism were studied in school girls. The subjects comprised 345 girls from 2 girls' schools and 187 girls from 2 co-educational schools in Kandy. General information and a detailed menstrual history with special emphasis on dysmenorrhoea, disability and absenteeism were obtained by means of a questionnaire. An educational programme on the significance of menstruation and simple ways of coping with dysmenorrhoea was conducted to subjects of one girls' school and one co-educational school. These were considered as the study groups while the other 2 schools were considered as the control groups. A repeat questionnaire was given to both groups 6 months later, to obtain details about the last menstrual periods. Analysis of data showed the following: A significantly higher percentage of subjects from girls' schools belonged to higher social classes (p<0.001), while a significantly higher percentage from co-educational schools resorted to traditional beliefs (p<0.05 and <0.001); the degree and prevalence of pain and disability were not significantly different between any two schools (p<0.05); absenteeism from school due to dysmenorrhoea was significantly higher in co-educational schools (p<0.001); there was an increase in the degree and prevalence of pain and disability with age. Six months later, a significant decrease (p<0.05) in absenteeism was observed in the study groups, while the other variables remained unchanged in both groups.
The study indicates that social class or coeducation do not significantly affect the degree of dysmenorrhoea and the resulting disability in school girls, but may affect school attendance which could be improved by educational programmes.