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

David M. Fergusson , L. John Horwood , Joseph M. Boden

Abstract

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.

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