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Abortion and depression

By JENI FAULKNER

THERE'S little doubt that when a young woman decides to have an abortion she faces a higher risk of experiencing depression and anxiety, but now the link is official.

A new study led by psychologist David Fergusson, published in the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology this week, found that 41 per cent of more than 500 women had become pregnant by the age 25 with 90 pregnancies terminated.

At age 25, 42 per cent of those who had an abortion experienced major depression at some stage during the previous four years ? nearly double the rate of those who had never been pregnant.

The risk of anxiety disorders was also raised by a similar degree. Women who had at least one abortion were twice as likely to drink alcohol at dangerous levels.

Dr Fergusson said the results could undermine the legal basis for access to abortion in jurisdictions, including NSW, where termination was legal only if continuing the pregnancy would threaten the woman's physical or mental health.

Australian mental and sexual health experts have reacted cautiously to the study.

Sydney-based psychiatrist Louise Newman said mental health professionals were well aware of some high risk women having psychological problems related to abortion.

"These are emotionallyladen things with the potential for problems. But we also know that having an unwanted pregnancy to term or having to give a child up for adoption also is related to mental health problems."

Dr Newman said more research was needed to identify women potentially at risk of developing mental health problems.

She also said it was important that the research wasn't used for political purposes to challenge the legal basis for access to termination.



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