Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study

Br J Psychiatry. 2008 Dec;193(6):444-51. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.108.056499.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome / psychology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Offenses
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Young Adult