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Birth control linked to depression, new study says

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

Taking hormonal birth control might be associated with an increased risk for depression compared with those who don’t use contraception, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry last week.

The finding is something that users have long suspected, as about 30% of women who ever used the pill in the United States eventually quit because of dissatisfaction with side effects, according to a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (PDF).

“We have known for decades that women’s sex hormones estrogen and progesterone have an influence on many women’s mood. Therefore, it is not very surprising that also external artificial hormones acting in the same way and on the same centers as the natural hormones might also influence women’s mood or even be responsible for depression development,” said Dr. Øjvind Lidegaard, a professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and lead supervisor of the study.

Lidegaard and his colleagues tracked the health of more than 1 million Danish women between the ages of 15 and 34 over 14 years, using data from the National Prescription Register and the Psychiatric Central Research Register in Denmark.

To ensure that depression was properly identified in connection with birth control use, women with a depression diagnosis before their 15th birthdays or the start of the data collection were excluded.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that the use of hormonal birth control was positively linked to a subsequent depression diagnosis and use of antidepressants.

Depression risk, by the numbers

Among all hormonal birth control users in the study, there was a 40% increased risk of depression after six months, compared to women who did not use hormonal birth control, the researchers found. The mean age of birth control users in the study was 24.


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