The United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has had a negative impact on Americans’ mental health, especially in the 13 states with trigger abortion bans, new research shows.
The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June of 2022, resulting in abortions being immediately banned through previously passed legislation (called trigger laws) in a total of 13 states. New research demonstrates the significant toll the ruling has taken on the mental health of Americans, particularly those living in states with trigger laws.
The research, published in Jama Network on Tuesday, shows that there was an overall increase in these mental health symptoms across the country following the ruling, but that living in states with abortion trigger laws compared with living in states without such laws “was associated with a small but significantly greater increase in anxiety and depression symptoms.”
The significant increase between residents of states with trigger laws and those without them was only observed among females between the ages of 18 and 45, however — not males or females above reproductive age.
Researchers analyzed survey data from more than 700,000 participants in the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey from December 2021 to January 2023 to determine the changes in symptoms of depression and anxiety after the ruling.
The researchers said the results were unsurprising considering the physical and mental harms of restricting abortion are well documented, but they are significant nonetheless and raise alarm bells about the potential for abortion restrictions to worsen mental health on a large scale.
This research adds to a body of evidence demonstrating that abortion bans harm mental health, including another recent JAMA study, which found that states that enacted more restrictive abortion policies between 1974 and 2016 had higher rates of suicide among women of reproductive age.
“The public health discussion of the effects of overturning Roe v Wade in June 2022 extend beyond the number of abortions, where and how people are having abortions, maternal mortality, or even infant mortality,” said University of Maryland associate professor of family science Julia Steinberg, in a JAMA editorial on the new research.
“The discussion includes how some restrictions on abortion may harm the mental health of those having or seeking abortions, as well as have the most serious effects on the mental health of females from marginalized groups.”
- JAMA Network. Anxiety and depression symptoms after the Dobbs abortion decision.
- JAMA Network. Mental health symptoms when abortion access is restricted.
- JAMA Psychology. Association between state-level access to reproductive care and suicide rates among women of reproductive age in the United States.