A Danish study linking birth control with depression has generated excited headlines around the world and struck a chord among many women.
But the response to the study is also providing a perfect example of how the public and the media often misunderstand medical and scientific research, experts said Thursday.
Here’s what the study did find: Women who used hormone-based birth control, such as the pill, implants or patches, were more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant or to be diagnosed with depression than women who did not use birth control.
What the study did not find was proof that the birth control actually causes depression. Just because two things are linked doesn’t mean one caused the other. And the study did not actually find anything that’s startling to researchers in the field – they’ve been suspecting there may be a link for decades.
“This is really resonating with a lot of women,” said Chelsea Polis, a senior research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health.
“Part of that has to do with women’s individual experiences. Women do feel that clinicians aren’t taking their concerns seriously sometimes,” she added. “And part of this reaction is this scientific literacy gap.”
For the study, Dr. Oejvind Lidegaard of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues looked at the medical records of more than 1 million young women and girls aged 15 to 34 from 1995 through 2013.
“Use of hormonal contraception, especially among…