Statistics relating to the incidence of depression after hysterectomy are all over the map, thanks to both the varying definitions used for depression and the length of time post-op patients have been monitored.(1) Still, there is no doubt among some segments of the scientific community that depression is the most common psychiatric follow-on symptom of a hysterectomy.
An element that contributed in one study to whether or not a woman feels depressed after a hysterectomy was her age. Post-op, the feeling of depression was much higher among women under the age of 35 than for those over that threshold. Understandably, 44% of the former group, still well within their child-bearing years, were depressed about having their uterus (and procreative capabilities) removed, while only 18% of women over the age of 35 felt the same way.
Whether a woman was married or unmarried made little difference to the feeling of depression in this particular study, although another bit of research found the opposite to be true.(2) However, the patient’s education level was a big factor. Those with no university education were found to be three times more depressed after the hysterectomy than women with some college or more.
Longer Term View
Other studies have zeroed in on the idea that the after-effects of hysterectomy must be looked at on a much longer term, at least a year, if not more.(3) A comparative study of three different groups of hysterectomy patients found that the scores of each, via self-administered depression questionnaires, all improved. In other words, the hysterectomy made them feel better about themselves, not worse.
The bottom line is that evidence for this causal link between hysterectomies and depression is equally divided between earlier studies that support the notion and later studies that challenge it. Then again, that is often the case with scientific survey data about medical conditions. As the methods of measurement improve, the results tend to change, often dramatically.
(1) Psychiatry Online – “Depression Following Hysterectomy”, 1976, Retrieved July 31, 2011 from http://psy.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/reprint/17/2/86.pdf
(2) University of Turkey – “Depression, Anxiety, Hostility and Hysterectomy”, September 2005, Retrieved July 31, 2011 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16295517
(3) Psychiatry Online – “Depression After Hysterectomy: A Comparative Study”, 1988, Retrieved July 31, 2011 from http://psy.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/reprint/29/3/307.pdf