Another one of this week’s highly-reported studies examined the link between taking hormonal birth control pills and depression in Danish adolescent and adult women. Several news sites, such as the New York Times, falsely reported that taking birth control supplements increased risk of depression by 80% in six months. NPR examined the statistics and spoke with experts about the real connotations of this study:
“Among women not taking hormonal birth control, 1.7 percent took antidepressants and 0.28 percent received a depression diagnosis at a psychiatric hospital. By comparison, 2.2 percent of women who started birth control began taking antidepressants afterward, and 0.3 percent were diagnosed with depression at a hospital. Basically, about 0.5 percent of women who began hormonal contraception developed depression who might not have otherwise.”
Among the issues discussed are misunderstandings of relative risks, allusions to correlation implying causation, and the lack of substantive research into women’s hormonal issues. Read the full article here and the study here, and be sure to subscribe to the SampleSize newsletter for more analysis of scientific studies in the public eye.