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Do Hormonal Contraceptives Impact Adolescent Mental Health?

Researchers in Sweden determined if hormonal contraceptives impact adolescent mental health and psychotropic drug use.

Anxiety disorders and depression are twice as common in women as in men. This gender disparity begins at puberty, which leads to the suspicion that female hormones are the culprit. There are many choices for contraception but hormonal versions have raised concerns of psychological adverse effects. Among adolescents, the rate of discontinuation of these medications is very high and the most common reason for this is mood disturbances. There is a need for reliable scientific literature on the psychological side effects of hormonal contraceptives.

The main aspect investigated is the use of psychotropic drugs, which was defined as filling at least one prescription of anxiolytics, sedatives, antidepressants, or hypnotics from the first time the individual used hormonal contraceptives or if the person did not use hormonal contraceptives at the start of the study.

This study occurred over a year when scientists investigated the adverse effects of hormonal contraceptives on psychological health in the Swedish population. Researchers observed data from the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and Statistics Sweden including 815,662 women aged between 12 to 30 years. All of the women in the study were users of a hormonal contraceptive for a period of one year and non-users for four years prior to the study. Women with pre-existing psychiatric conditions in the previous four years were excluded from the study.

The finding of the study points to a concrete association between the use of hormonal contraceptives and the subsequent use of psychotropic drugs in adolescent girls. This association is weak or absent in adult women.

This suggests a negative association between hormonal contraceptives and mental health in adolescent girls. Clinically, young girls using hormonal contraceptives should be considered a vulnerable population, requiring close follow-up. This important study demonstrates that hormonal contraceptives can have a negative impact on the mental health of some women.

Reference

  1. Zettermark, S., Vicente, R. P., & Merlo, J. (2018). Hormonal contraception increases the risk of psychotropic drug use in adolescent girls but not in adults: A pharmacoepidemiological study on 800 000 Swedish women. PloS one13(3), e0194773. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194773
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