A comparison of depression and anxiety symptom trajectories between women who had an abortion and women denied one

Foster DG

Steinberg JR

Roberts SCM

Neuhaus J

Biggs MA

Psychological Medicine
Jan 2015


This study prospectively assesses the mental health outcomes among women seeking abortions, by comparing women having later abortions with women denied abortions, up to 2 years post-abortion seeking.


We present the first 2 years of a 5-year telephone interview study that is following 956 women who sought an abortion from 30 facilities throughout the USA. We use adjusted linear mixed-effects regression analyses to assess whether symptoms of depression and anxiety, as measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory-short form and the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders Patient Health Questionnaire, differ over time among women denied an abortion due to advanced gestational age, compared with women who received abortions.


Baseline predicted mean depressive symptom scores for women denied abortion (3.07) were similar to women receiving an abortion just below the gestational limit (2.86). Depressive symptoms declined over time, with no difference between groups. Initial predicted mean anxiety symptoms were higher among women denied care (2.59) than among women who had an abortion just below the gestational limit (1.91). Anxiety levels in the two groups declined and converged after 1 year.


Women who received an abortion had similar or lower levels of depression and anxiety than women denied an abortion. Our findings do not support the notion that abortion is a cause of mental health problems.