New study examines link between abortion and mental health

New research by Professor David Fergusson and colleagues from the University of Otago has found that women who have an abortion face a 30% increase in the risk of developing common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. The research will be published in the December issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.   

The conditions most associated with abortion included anxiety disorders and substance use. Overall population effects of abortion on mental health found in this study were small; the researchers estimated that exposure to abortion accounted for between 1.5% and 5.5% of the overall rate of mental disorders in the general population.

This study, by Professor David Fergusson, John Horwood and Dr Joseph Boden, looked at the pregnancy and mental health history of over 500 women involved in the long-running Christchurch Health and Development Study from birth to the age of 30.

Reference: Fergusson D, Horwood LJ and Boden JM (2008), Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study, British Journal of Psychiatry, 193: 444-451

A copy of the original research paper is available on the SMC website. To access this, please register and login to the Resource Library.