Increase in Suicidal Thoughts, Substance Use
and Other Problems After Abortion
Springfield, IL (May 10, 2010) — A new study has found that women are more likely to experience substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and other problems after abortion, affirming the results of previous studies finding a link between abortion and mental health problems.
The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, examined a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 women in the United States.
The researchers found that, after controlling for age, marital status, race, education, household income and any violence, women in the study who underwent an abortion had a 98 percent increased risk for any mental health disorders compared to women who did not have an abortion.
Women who had abortions also had:
- 59 percent increased risk for suicidal thoughts
- 61 percent increased risk for mood disorders
- 61 percent increased risk for social anxiety disorders
- 261 percent increased risk for alcohol abuse
- 280 percent increased risk for any substance use disorder
Approximately 6 percent of suicidal ideation cases among women nationwide and 25 percent of cases of drug use could be related to abortion, the researchers found. 
The study affirms findings from earlier studies showing that women are more likely to suffer emotional injury after undergoing abortion. For example, a 2005 New Zealand study found that, even after controlling for existing mental health problems, women who aborted were more likely to later experience depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. 
And a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2008 found that mental disorders among women who had abortions were 17 percent higher than among women who did not have abortions. When researchers looked at specific disorders, the increased rate among women who had abortions ranged from 44 percent higher for panic attacks and 167 percent higher for bipolar disorder. 
Abortion and Violence
The new study affirms that mental health problems associated with abortion cannot be solely explained by an exposure to other forms of violence. The earlier 2008 study also found that abortion was more likely to cause mental health problems among women than was a history of other traumas such as childhood sexual abuse, rape, physical violence or neglect.
Elliot Institute director Dr. David Reardon, who has worked on more than a dozen studies on mental health issues after abortion, said that further research is also needed to look at the other side of the equation: whether having an abortion is likely to increase a women’s risk of suffering violence or abuse.
He expressed concern that the study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry made no distinction between exposure to violence that occurred before the abortion and exposure which occurred after the abortion, noting that violence may actually be an aftereffect of abortion.
“I believe this is a very important distinction which should be investigated, as we have evidence from surveys and interviews with women which indicate that abortion may increase a woman’s risk of experiencing violence in numerous ways,” Reardon said. “In short, controlling for exposure to violence which occurs after an abortion may be taking out one of the effects of abortion rather than an independent factor.”
Other studies have found an increase in suicide, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, sleep disorders, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and other problems. This latest study adds more evidence to the need for meaningful help and alternatives to abortion, as well as measures, such as that recently passed in Nebraska, that would hold abortion businesses liable for failing to screen for coercion and other known factors that put women and teens at risk for mental health disorders after abortion.
Educate others: Download and share our Recent Research Fact Sheet highlighting studies on abortion’s impact on women.
1. Mota, NP et. al., “Associations Between Abortion, Mental Disorders and Suicidal Behavior in a Nationally Representative Sample,” The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 55(4): 239-246 (April 2010).
2. Fergusson, DM et. al., “Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (2006) 47(1): 16-24.
3. Coleman, PK et. al., “Induced abortion and anxiety, mood, and substance abuse disorders: Isolating the effects of abortion in the national comorbidity survey,” Journal of Psychiatric Research (2008), doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2008.10.009.