Association between adolescent oral contraceptive use and future major depressive disorder: a prospective cohort study

Christine Anderl, Anouk de Wit, Erik Giltay, Tineke Oldehinkel*, Frances Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
215 Downloads (Pure)


Background Because of the widespread use of oral contraceptives (OCs) and the devastating effects of depression both on an individual and a societal level, it is crucial to understand the nature of the previously reported relationship between OC use and depression risk. Insight into the impact of analytical choices on the association is important when interpreting available evidence. Hence, we examined the association between adolescent OC use and subsequent depression risk in early adulthood analyzing all theoretically justifiable models. Methods Data from the prospective cohort study TRacking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey, among women aged 13-25 years were used. Adolescent OC use (ages 16-19 years) was used as a predictor and major depressive disorder (MDD) in early adulthood (ages 20-25 years), as assessed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV oriented Lifetime Depression Assessment Self-Report and the Composite International Diagnostic Interview, was used as an outcome. A total of 818 analytical models were analyzed using Specification Curve Analysis in 534 adolescent OC users and 191 nonusers. Results Overall, there was an association of adolescent OC use and an episode of MDD in early adulthood [median odds ratio (OR)(median) = 1.41; ORmin = 1.08; ORmax = 2.18, p < .001], which was driven by the group of young women with no history of MDD (ORmedian = 1.72; ORmin = 1.21; ORmax = 2.18, p < .001). Conclusions In summary, adolescent OC use was associated with a small but robust increased risk for experiencing an episode of MDD, especially among women with no history of MDD in adolescence. Understanding the potential side effects of OCs will help women and their doctors to make informed choices when deciding among possible methods of birth control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333–341
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number3
Early online date12-Jul-2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Oral contraceptive use
  • adolescence
  • risk factors
  • major depressive disorder

Cite this