Summary: Abortions Associated With an Increased Risk of Mental Health Problems

A number of studies have proposed that abortion may have long-term adverse mental health effects, leading to feelings of guilt, unresolved loss and lowered self-esteem.

  • According to a recent study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, data was collected as part of the Christchurch Health and Development Study (a 25-year longitudinal study of a birth cohort of New Zealand children). Since the issue between abortion and subsequent mental health problems remains controversial, the researchers of this study aimed to examine the link between having an abortion and mental health outcomes over the interval from age 15-25 years. Among the women surveyed, 41% of them had become pregnant on at least one occasion prior to age 25, with 14.6% of the women having had an abortion. Those who had an abortion had elevated rates of subsequent mental health problems including depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviors, and substance use disorders.   From this study, the authors concluded that the issue of whether or not abortion has harmful affects on mental health still remains to be fully resolved. The women in this study who had previously had an abortion appeared to be at a moderately increased risk of present and future mental health problems when compared with groups of their pregnant or non-pregnant peers. The researchers concluded that, even though the study did not take into account the individuality of each woman’s case and family history, it is difficult to disregard the real possibility that abortion among young women is associated with increased risks of mental health problems. There needs to be further studies on this issue before strong conclusions can be made about the extent to which exposure to abortion has harmful effects on the mental health of young women.1

1Abortion in Young Women and Subsequent Mental Health, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2006, pp. 16-24.


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