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Abortion may increase a woman’s risk for generalized anxiety disorder, study shows

Women who choose to abort an unintended first pregnancy have a significantly higher risk for generalized anxiety than women who carry to term, according to a new study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders by Jesse Cougle, a psychology doctoral student at The University of Texas at Austin.

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AUSTIN, Texas—Women who choose to abort an unintended first pregnancy have a significantly higher risk for generalized anxiety than women who carry to term, according to a new study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders by Jesse Cougle, a psychology doctoral student at The University of Texas at Austin.

“Women who aborted were 34 percent more likely to report symptoms associated with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by excessive and uncontrollable worry,” Cougle said. “These results were found after statistically removing the effects of race, age and periods of anxiety prior to their first pregnancy event. When only unmarried women were examined, those who aborted still had significantly higher rates of subsequent anxiety, suggesting indirectly that marriage as a form of social support may not necessarily buffer the effects of abortion.”

The results of the study further revealed that the differences in subsequent anxiety were more pronounced among teens.

“Younger women are more likely to report their abortion,” Cougle said. “Concealment could have influenced the results, since previous studies have shown that women who conceal their abortion from others are also more likely to experience post-abortion distress. Given that only 60 percent of the expected number of abortions were reported in the sample we used, our findings could actually be a conservative estimate of the true differences between women who abort and women who carry to term.”

A history of abortion may be a useful marker for identifying women at risk for generalized anxiety. This information should be useful to clinicians and/or researchers working with anxiety sufferers, as it may help to identify a history of abortion as a possible precipitating stressor or maintaining factor in certain clients’ anxiety-related concerns.

The study, “Generalized anxiety following unintended pregnancies resolved through childbirth and abortion: a cohort study of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth,” used a nationwide survey assessing the pregnancy histories of women in the U.S.

For more information contact: Jesse Cougle, M.Sc., 512- 471-3722.