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Hormonal contraception may increase risk for depression: Study

Increased rates of depression were seen in adolescent women taking contraception, but researchers say more studies are needed to understand the link.

By Stephen Feller
Hormonal contraception may increase risk for depression: Study
A significant increase for likelihood of first use of antidepressants or diagnosis of depression was seen in women and girls using hormonal contraceptives, though researchers who conducted the study caution more research is necessary to understand the link. Photo by Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Hormonal contraception is widely used around the world to prevent pregnancy, but a large study of women in Denmark found it increases risk for first-time use of antidepressants and diagnosis of depression.

Women are at about twice the risk of men for depression, and mood symptoms are a common reason for not using hormonal contraceptives, but there has not been much research on the specific use of antidepressive drugs or depression among women who take them, according to researchers at the University of Copenhagen.

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Previous studies have suggested adolescent users of progestin-only contraception are more likely to take antidepressants. Studies have also shown either no link between mood and contraceptive use, or that use of hormonal contraceptives was linked to better moods.

For the study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers analyzed data on 1,061,997 women collected between 1995 and 2013 as part of either the National Prescription Register or the Psychiatric Central Research Register in Denmark. The women had a median age of 24, and had no prior diagnosis for depression, had never redeemed a prescription for antidepressants, had not had other major psychiatric diagnoses, cancer or had infertility treatment.

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The women were followed up with for an average of 6.4 years, during which 55 percent of women and adolescents were using or had used hormonal contraception. Compared to nonusers, those who'd taken combined oral contraceptives were 1.23 times more likely for first use of an antidepressant and those on progestin-only pills were 1.34 times as likely.

Teen and adolescent girls on combined oral contraceptives were 1.8 times more likely to receive prescription antidepressants, girls on progestin-only pills were 2.2 times more likely and those using nonoral contraceptives had three times the risk for first use of an antidepressant.

While women are at twice the risk of men for depression, the researchers also note adolescent girls are at less risk for depression than their male counterparts, suggesting hormone contraceptives may be having an affect.

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"Use of hormonal contraceptives was associated with subsequent antidepressant use and first diagnosis of depression at a psychiatric hospital among women living in Denmark," researchers wrote in the study. "Adolescents seemed more vulnerable to this risk than women 20 to 34 years old. Further studies are warranted to examine depression as a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use."

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