Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 103–111 | Cite as

Oral contraceptive use and psychiatric disorders in a nationally representative sample of women

  • Keely Cheslack-PostavaEmail author
  • Katherine M. Keyes
  • Sarah R. Lowe
  • Karestan C. Koenen
Original Article


The purpose of this study is to examine the association between oral contraceptive use (any current use, duration, and type) and major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and panic disorder (PD) in a nationally representative sample of women in the USA. Data were drawn from 1,105 women aged 20–39 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1999 to 2004. The associations between self-reported use of oral contraceptives in the past year and DSM-IV diagnosed and subthreshold MDD, GAD, and PD in the past year were assessed comparing oral contraceptive users to all non-users, former users, and former long-term users. Women using oral contraceptives had a lower past-year prevalence of all disorders assessed, other than subthreshold MDD. When adjusted for confounders, women using oral contraceptives in the past year had significantly lower odds of subthreshold PD, compared to former users (odds ratio (OR) = 0.34, 95 % CI 0.14–0.84). Effects estimates were strongest for monophasic (versus multiphasic) oral contraceptive users. Hormonal contraceptive use was associated with reduced risk of subthreshold PD. A potential mental health benefit of hormonal contraceptives has substantial public health implications; prospective longitudinal studies are needed to confirm whether hormonal contraceptive use improves mental health.


Generalized anxiety disorder Hormonal contraceptives Major depressive disorder Oral contraceptives Panic disorder 



The authors would like to acknowledge Michelle Haloossim for the literature review and writing assistance and Kirstin H. Heinrich for the assistance with literature review and figure preparation. At the time of manuscript preparation, Ms. Haloossim was a student in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences and Ms. Heinrich was a student in the Department of Epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (2-T32-MH-13043 to KCP and SRL and K01-AA021511 to KMK).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keely Cheslack-Postava
    • 1
    Email author
  • Katherine M. Keyes
    • 1
  • Sarah R. Lowe
    • 1
  • Karestan C. Koenen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public HealthColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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