Studies - Depression / Suicide / Mental Health

"Abortion and Mental Health Disorders: Evidence from a 30-year Longitudinal Study" (BJP, 12/08)

"Abortion and Mental Health Disorders: Evidence from a 30-year Longitudinal Study" in the British Journal of Psychiatry, December 2008

Women who have an abortion are at 3-fold risk of developing drug or alcohol addiction.

After an abortion, women are 30% more likely to have mental disorders as compared to other women, according to research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry (Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study, 12/08).

According to Professor David Fergusson, who led the research that reviewed 500 women, the findings have “important implications”: more than 90% of British abortions were authorized on the grounds that keeping an unwanted baby would cause the mother mental health problems.

“This evidence clearly poses a challenge to the use of psychiatric reasons to justify abortion. There is nothing in this study that would suggest that the termination of pregnancy was associated with lower risks of mental health problems than birth.” [The Daily Mail].  

Another study has shown that women who lose a baby when they are 21 – either through an abortion or a miscarriage – are 3 times more likely to develop a drug or alcohol problem than others. Researcher Kaeleen Dingle [Univ of Queensland, Australia] said: “Abortion and miscarriage are stressful life events that have been shown to lead to anxiety, sadness and grief and, for some women, serious depression & substance use disorders.”
 
[David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood, and Joseph M. Boden, Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study, The British Journal of Psychiatry, Dec 2008; 193: 444 – 451]

 
ABSTRACT:
The British Journal of Psychiatry (2008) 193: 444-451. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.108.056499

2008 The Royal College of Psychiatrists
 
Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study
David M. Fergusson, PhD, L. John Horwood, MSc and Joseph M. Boden, PhD
 
Christchurch Health and Development Study, University of Otago, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, New Zealand
 
Declaration of interest:  None. Funding detailed in Acknowledgements.
 
Background
 
Research on the links between abortion and mental health has been limited by design problems and relatively weak evidence.
 
Aims
 
To examine the links between pregnancy outcomes and mental health outcomes.
 
Method
 
Data were gathered on the pregnancy and mental health history of a birth cohort of over 500 women studied to the age of 30.
 
Results
 
After adjustment for confounding, abortion was associated with a small increase in the risk of mental disorders; women who had had abortions had rates of mental disorder that were about 30% higher. There were no consistent associations between other pregnancy outcomes and mental health. Estimates of attributable risk indicated that exposure to abortion accounted for 1.5% to 5.5% of the overall rate of mental disorders.
 
Conclusions
 
The evidence is consistent with the view that abortion may be associated with a small increase in risk of mental disorders. Other pregnancy outcomes were not related to increased risk of mental health problems.
 
Related articles in BJP:
 
Invited commentaries on… Abortion and mental health disorders
    Patricia Casey, Margaret Oates, Ian Jones, and Roch Cantwell
    BJP 2008 193: 452-454. [Abstract] [Full Text]