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Reactions to abortion and subsequent mental health

  • David M. Fergusson (a1), L. John Horwood (a1) and Joseph M. Boden (a1)

There has been continued interest in the extent to which women have positive and negative reactions to abortion.


To document emotional reactions to abortion, and to examine the links between reactions to abortion and subsequent mental health outcomes.


Data were gathered on the pregnancy and mental health history of a birth cohort of over 500 women studied to the age of 30.


Abortion was associated with high rates of both positive and negative emotional reactions; however, nearly 90% of respondents believed that the abortion was the right decision. Analyses showed that the number of negative responses to the abortion was associated with increased levels of subsequent mental health disorders (P<0.05). Further analyses suggested that, after adjustment for confounding, those having an abortion and reporting negative reactions had rates of mental health disorders that were approximately 1.4–1.8 times higher than those not having an abortion.


Abortion was associated with both positive and negative emotional reactions. The extent of negative emotional reactions appeared to modify the links between abortion and subsequent mental health problems.

Corresponding author
David M. Fergusson, Christchurch Health and Development Study, University of Otago, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, PO Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand. Email:
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This research was funded by grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the National Child Health Research Foundation, the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation and the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board.

Declaration of interest


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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Reactions to abortion and subsequent mental health

  • David M. Fergusson (a1), L. John Horwood (a1) and Joseph M. Boden (a1)
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