Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: The psychological cost of foreclosure

In Brief

The psychological cost of foreclosure

Foreclosures are on the rise across the United States (and in other countries), as the economic downturn places financial pressure on homeowners. A study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has found that these homeowners may be experiencing a significant psychological toll as well.

The researchers recruited 250 homeowners in Philadelphia who were undergoing foreclosure. Almost half reported symptoms of depression, and 37% met the criteria for major depression in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). This was a significantly greater percentage than reported in previous research in a similar population, which found that roughly 13% of people living in poverty met DSM-IV criteria for major depression. The study also found that people undergoing foreclosure were more likely to be uninsured, to skip meals, and to skip filling medical prescriptions — all of which could adversely affect health.

The authors encourage policy makers to consider distributing information about health programs and safety nets through the growing network of mortgage counseling programs.

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