Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Volume 42, Number 4, December 2010

Do Depression and Low Self-Esteem Follow Abortion Among Adolescents? Evidence from a National Study

By Jocelyn T. Warren, S. Marie Harvey and Jillian T. Henderson

CONTEXT: 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.

METHODS: 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 fi ve years later, at Wave 3 (2001–2002).

RESULTS: 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.

CONCLUSIONS: Adolescents who have an abortion do not appear to be at elevated risk for depression or low selfesteem in the short term or up to fi ve years after the abortion.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2010, 42(4):230–235




Jocelyn T. Warren is research associate and postdoctoral fellow, and S. Marie Harvey is chair and professor, both at the Department of Public Health, Oregon State University, Corvallis. Jillian T. Henderson is assistant professor, University of California, San Francisco, Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health.