Does the pill cause depression?

Women taking contraceptives are more likely to be treated for depression, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry.  

The longitudinal study, carried out by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, involved a data pool of over a million women living in Denmark. Researchers tracked women who had no previous depression diagnosis and compared first incidence rates of depression among those using contraceptives to those who were not.

The researchers found that that those on the combined pill were 23% more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant by their doctor, most commonly in the first six months after starting on the pill. Women on the progestin-only pills, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone, were 34% more likely to take antidepressants or get a first diagnosis of depression than those not on hormonal contraception.

The researchers say their data "suggest(s) depression as a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use", and call for further studies to investigate the possible side-effects of contraceptives.

Channa Jayasena, of the UK-based Society for Endocrinology, said the findings raised important questions. “The study does not prove that the Pill plays any role in the development of depression,” she said. “However, we know hormones play a hugely important role in regulating human behaviour. Given the enormous size of this study, further work is needed to see if these results can be repeated in other populations.”

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | contraception, contraceptive pill, depression

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