Home Medizin Eingeschränkter Zugang zu Abtreibungen führt zu psychischen Gesundheitsschäden

Eingeschränkter Zugang zu Abtreibungen führt zu psychischen Gesundheitsschäden

von NFI Redaktion

New research shows that constitutional right to abortion was revoked, leading to increased symptoms of anxiety and depression among adults living in trigger states where abortions were immediately banned following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, according to researchers led by Benjamin Thornburg of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.

This could be attributed to a variety of factors, including anxiety about the looming risk of being denied an abortion, uncertainty about future abortion restrictions and other related rights such as contraception, concern about the ability to receive life-saving medical care during pregnancy, and a general sense of violation and powerlessness associated with the loss of reproductive autonomy.

The study was published online in JAMA on January 23, 2024.

Mental Health Damage

In June 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling, lifting federal protection for abortion rights. Thirteen states had „trigger laws“ that immediately banned or severely restricted abortions, raising concerns about the potential negative impact on mental health.

Researchers used data from the Household Pulse Survey to estimate changes in anxiety and depression symptoms after and before the Dobbs decision among nearly 160,000 adults in 13 trigger states compared to approximately 559,000 adults living in 37 non-trigger states.

The average age of participants was 48 years, and 51% were women. Anxiety and depression symptoms were measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4).

In trigger states, the average PHQ-4 score at the beginning of the study (before Dobbs) was 3.51 and rose to 3.81 after the Dobbs decision. In non-trigger states, the average PHQ-4 score at the beginning was 3.31 and increased to 3.49 after Dobbs.

Living in a trigger state was associated with a small but statistically significant worsening (0.11 points; P < .001) in anxiety/depression symptoms after the Dobbs decision compared to living in a non-trigger state, the researchers reported.

For women aged 18 to 45, there was a greater deterioration in anxiety and depression symptoms after Dobbs in triggering or non-triggering states, while minimal or negligible changes occurred in men of the same age.

Implications for Care

In a related editorial, Julie Steinberg, Ph.D. of the University of Maryland in College Park, noted that the study’s findings „provide new evidence that, at an individual level, the loss of reproductive autonomy (due to lack of legal access to an abortion) may exacerbate anxiety symptoms and depression in all individuals, especially women of childbearing age.“

These results complement findings from two other studies that examined abortion restrictions and their consequences for mental health. „Both found that restricting access to abortion in women of childbearing age was associated with more mental symptoms than in others,“ Steinberg emphasized.

„Taken together, these results make it clear that doctors practicing in states where abortions are banned must be aware that women of childbearing age may have significantly more stress than before the Dobbs decision,“ Steinberg added.

The study did not receive specific funding. The authors had no relevant conflicts of interest. Steinberg reported that she has served as a paid expert on abortion and mental health in seven cases challenging abortion policy.

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