Study reveals link between taking contraceptive pill during teen years and depression

contraceptive pill
(Image credit: Getty Images/Science Photo Libra)

According to experts, teenage girls are up to three times more likely to develop clinical depression in later life if they take the contraceptive pill.

These new findings raise concerns given the fact depression is the leading cause of suicide deaths across the globe.

Experts have also warned that women are twice as likely as men to develop depression at some point in their lives.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia are worried that the contraceptive pill could interfere with the balance of sex hormones in the brain during a girl’s development.

Study author Dr Christine Anderl said: “Adolescence is an important period for brain development.

"Previous animal studies have found that manipulating sex hormones, especially during important phases of brain development, can influence later behaviour in a way that is irreversible.”

She added: "Our findings suggest that the use of oral contraceptives during this time may have an enduring effect on a woman's risk for depression - even years after she stops using them."

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contraceptive pill

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Currently, millions of women across the UK take the contraceptive pill, making it the most popular form of contraception. Most users don’t use it consistently, and instead choose to stop and start according to circumstances.

Around 48 per cent of contraceptive-using 16 to 19-year-olds in the UK opt for the pill.

Dr Frances Chen took part in the study, and said: “Millions of women worldwide use oral contraceptives, and they are particularly popular among teenagers.

"While we strongly believe that providing women of all ages with access to effective methods of birth control is and should continue to be a major global health priority, we hope that our findings will promote more research on this topic, as well as more informed dialogue and decision-making about the prescription of hormonal birth control to adolescents."

The researchers looked at data from 1,236 women in the US, taking into account factors such as age of first period, age they lost their virginity, and use of the pill.

The study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, discovered that teens taking the oral contraceptive were 1.7 times to three times more likely to be clinically depressed during adulthood.

Researchers have stressed that more research will be needed to draw concrete conclusions, and just because there’s a relationship between taking the contraceptive pill and being depressed later in life, doesn’t prove one definitely causes the other.

Lucy Buglass is a Digital Writer specialising in TV, film and lifestyle content and has written for What's On TV, GoodtoKnow and She's passionate about entertainment and spends most of her free time watching Netflix series, BBC dramas, or going to the cinema to catch the latest film releases. In her spare time, she writes film and television reviews for JumpCut Online and her own blog, Lucy Goes To Hollywood.