Foreclosure is not just a financial problem—it also has negative health implications for homeowners older than 50 who fall behind on their mortgages. They’re much more likely to report symptoms of major depression, says the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, citing a study written by Foundation-supported scholars.
Additionally, mortgage-delinquent homeowners were found more likely to lack a sufficient supply of food and to go without prescribed medications for financial reasons, the study shows.
“This is clearly reflecting the juggling that people are doing to make mortgage payments,” says Dawn Alley, PhD, an alumna of the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program and the lead author of the paper, which was published online on Oct. 20 by the American Journal of Public Health. “These short-term changes are likely to have long-term health consequences for families facing foreclosure.”
Foreclosure isn’t just a financial problem, it’s also a social program that has huge health implications for homeowners, argue study co-author Craig Pollack and colleague Julia Lynch.
“Foreclosure is wrapped together for many people with a horrible, messy combination of job loss, ill health, uninsurance or underinsurance, and debt,” said Lynch. “When you put those things together, people are subject to really intense stress, which is likely to lead to depression and other health problems.”
The problem is likely to get worse before it gets better, says the Foundation, as the economy is recovering slowly and unemployment rates remain high. However, there are ways to combat the negative side effects of foreclosure, such as targeting high-risk homeowners in default for interventions, or addressing health problems during the mediation process between lenders and distressed homeowners.
The full study can be accessed at the American Journal of Public Health.
Written by Alyssa Gerace