New Study Links Contraceptive Pills and Depression

In a global perspective, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability. The possibility that contraceptive pills might have negative effects on mental health and even lead to depression has long been discussed. 

Although many women choose to stop using contraceptive pills because of the influence on their mood, until now the picture emerging from research has not been straightforward. This study is one of the largest and widest-ranging to date, following more than a quarter of a million women from UK Biobank from birth to menopause.

The researchers collected data about women’s use of contraceptive pills, the time at which they were first diagnosed with depression and when they first experienced symptoms of depression without receiving a diagnosis. 

The method of contraception studied was combined contraceptive pills, which contain progestogen, a compound resembling the hormone progesterone, and oestrogen. Progestogen prevents ovulation and thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperms from entering the uterus, while oestrogen thins the uterine lining to hinder the implantation of a fertilised egg.

According to the study, women who began to use contraceptive pills as teenagers had a 130 per cent higher incidence of symptoms of depression, while the corresponding increase among adult users was 92 per cent.

“The powerful influence of contraceptive pills on teenagers can be ascribed to the hormonal changes caused by puberty. As women in that age group have already experienced substantial hormonal changes, they can be more receptive not only to hormonal changes but also to other life experiences,” Johansson says.

The researchers were also able to see that the increased incidence of depression declined when the women continued to use contraceptive pills after the first two years. However, teenage users of contraceptive pills still had an increased incidence of depression even after stopping using the pill, which was not observed in adult users of contraceptive pills.

The findings of the study point to a need for healthcare professionals to be more aware of possible links between different systems in the body, such as depression and the use of contraceptive pills. The researchers conclude that it is important for care providers to inform women who are considering using contraceptive pills of the potential risk of depression as a side-effect of the medicine.


T. Johansson, S. Vinther Larsen, M. Bui, W. E. Ek, T. Karlsson, Å. Johansson. Population-based cohort study of oral contraceptive use and risk of depression. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 2023; 32 DOI: 10.1017/S2045796023000525

Uppsala University. (2023, June 12). New study links contraceptive pills and depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 13, 2023 from

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