Foreclosures Take a Toll on Mental Health, Study Says

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's official: The economy is bad for your health.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine questioned 250 homeowners going through foreclosure in Philadelphia and found that 47 percent showed symptoms of depression, with 37 percent exhibiting signs of major depression. The rate was especially high considering previous research showed that only about 12.8 percent of people living in poverty were depressed, the study found.

"Although the health status of homeowners has traditionally tended to be better than that of renters, the financial and emotional stress of foreclosure may undermine the potential benefits of homeownership," said the study, which will appear in the October edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

The researchers found deep attachment to homes. "There is a sense of hope when people buy their homes," said Craig Evan Pollack, an internist who recently completed a fellowship at Penn's medical school and is now an associate scientist at Rand Corp. "The difference between those dreams and hopes and [the] reality that people are finding themselves in may be part of the stress that people are feeling, and a sense of sadness as well."

Borrowers facing foreclosure were more likely to forgo filling prescriptions, and nearly 60 percent reported that they had skipped or delayed meals, according to the study. "We've barely begun to think about the health consequences of the foreclosure crisis," Pollack said.

And it's likely to get worse. Nearly 2 million homeowners are expected to lose their homes to foreclosure this year, according to some economists.

"It's surprising to me that the rates of depression aren't even higher," said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a nonprofit group. "All aspects of their life are just disrupted. They lose their center."

-- Renae Merle

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