Pin It
Teens who take the pill at risk of long-lasting depression
Photography by Simone van der Koelen, via Unsplash

The contraceptive pill could be triggering long-lasting depression in teens

A new study has found a link between previous use of the contraceptive pill and a vulnerability to mental health issues later in life

We all know the pill can fuck up your mental health while you’re taking it, but what about when you stop? A new study has looked into the risk of long-lasting depression for girls who took the pill when they were teens, and – of course – it’s not good news.

In a report published in the Wiley Online Library, researchers found that women who used oral contraceptives as adolescents were more likely to suffer from depression later in life, even years after stopping taking them. 

Using a sample of 1,236 women between the ages of 20 and 39, scientists found that women who first took the pill in their teens were at a higher risk of being clinically depressed (16 per cent), compared to those who had never taken it (six per cent), as well as people who just started taking oral contraceptives as adults (nine per cent). 

These findings also remained stable when researchers controlled for other differences, including age at first period and sexual encounter, current relationship status, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and current contraceptive pill use. Although researchers assert that the report cannot definitively conclude that using the pill causes increased depression.   

In an analysis published on The Conversation, the study’s co-authors address previous conflicting findings about the link between the pill and mental health, criticising other studies as looking exclusively at its short-term effects, and only taking into account current oral contraceptive use, as opposed to past use.

The researchers write: “We do believe that there is an urgent need for more research on this topic. We do not believe that all women are likely to experience the same side effects when they take contraceptive pills.”

“We hope our research might prompt teens and their parents to talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits associated with different options that are available to them,” they continue, “especially if they have a family history of depression or other reason to think that they might be particularly vulnerable to certain side effects of these medications.”

The past couple of years have seen multiple alternatives to the oral contraceptive pill emerge, including a six-month patch, contraceptive jewellery, and the elusive – still TBC – male pill.