Do depression and low self-esteem follow abortion among adolescents? Evidence from a national study

Warren JT

Harvey SM

Henderson JT

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Dec 2010


A 2008 report by the American Psychological Association found no evidence that an induced abortion causes mental health problems in adult women. No conclusions were drawn with respect to adolescents because of a scarcity of evidence.


Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health were used to examine whether abortion in adolescence was associated with subsequent depression and low self-esteem. In all, 289 female respondents reported at least one pregnancy between Wave 1 (1994-1995) and Wave 2 (1996) of the survey. Of these, 69 reported an induced abortion. Population-averaged lagged logistic regression models were used to assess associations between abortion and depression and low self-esteem within a year of the pregnancy and approximately five years later, at Wave 3 (2001-2002).


Abortion was not associated with depression or low self-esteem at either time point. Socioeconomic and demographic characteristics did not substantially modify the relationships between abortion and the outcomes.


Adolescents who have an abortion do not appear to be at elevated risk for depression or low self-esteem in the short term or up to five years after the abortion.