A report published in the British Medical Journal has found a link between abortion and depression.

The Elliot Institute funded the report, which collected data from a national study of American youths that began in 1979. A subset of 4,463 women were surveyed in 1992 about depression, intendedness of pregnancy and pregnancy outcome. A total of 421 women either had a first abortion, or first unintended delivery, between 1980 and 1992.

The study found that on an eight-year average, “married women were 138 per cent more likely to be at high risk of clinical depression compared to similar women who carried their unintended first pregnancies to term. Among women who were unmarried in 1992, rates of high-risk depression were not significantly different.”

The report also suggested that “the lack of significance in unmarried women may be explained by their higher rate of none-reporting abortions.”

Moreover, the study found that only 30 per cent of unmarried women ever report their expected abortion, while married women have an abortion report rate of 74 per cent. “This may make the results for married women more reliable,” the study explained.

The study offered another possible reason for the discrepancy: “Another explanation is that unmarried women who are raising a child without the support of a husband experience significantly more depression than their married counterparts.”

The study’s authors concluded that 60 per cent of abortions are concealed and this “would tend to suppress the full effect of abortion on subsequent depression.”

Dr. David Reardon, the director of the Elliot Institute and lead author of the report, told The Interim, “Given the high rate of concealment of past abortion, the fact that significant differences still emerged suggests that we are just catching the tip of the iceberg.”

Reardon said the study’s finding are consistent with other recent research that shows a four- to six-fold increased risk of suicide and substance abuse associated with a prior abortion.

Reardon explained that the findings are important because this is the first national representative study to examine rates of depression over approximately eight years.

Previous to the Elliot Institute study’s release, feminist psychologist Nancy Russo of Arizona State University used the same data for an examination of a self-esteem scale. She claimed there was no significant difference between aborting women and women who carried to term. She concluded that abortion has no “substantial and important impact on women’s well-being.”

However, the Elliot Institute’s re-analysis of the same data set suggested otherwise. “The Elliot Institute’s new analysis of the same data set reveals that significant differences do exist,” said Reardon. He said the problem with the Russo study is that its authors failed to comment on the extremely high rate of concealment of past abortion. “Women who do not want to mention past abortions are most likely the ones who will have unresolved feelings of shame, guilt, or grief.”

Reardon said that “Russo’s previous analysis of this data set was methodologically weak and was frankly a poor basis on which to build the claim that abortion has no measurable effect on a woman’s well-being.”

Reardon also said that pre-pregnancy psychological scores as a control variable are very important and that most studies use pre-abortion evaluation as a control variable. The problem with this is that pre-abortion evaluations are going to take place when women are under tremendous stress and may already be depressed.