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Foreclosure Crisis Threatening Americans' Health: Study
Date:10/20/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that falling behind on your mortgage payments hurts more than just your finances, as the stress and financial strain that come with the struggle can also harm your physical and psychological health.

Researchers examined data collected in 2006 and 2008 on nearly 2,500 Americans who took part in the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative sample of Americans older than age 50. The data included questions about overall health, psychological health, income and whether they had fallen two months or more behind on their mortgage payment.

People who reported that they had fallen behind on their mortgage between 2006 and 2008 reported more depressive symptoms, more food insecurity and were more likely to say they weren't taking prescription medications as prescribed because of cost.

"People are making unhealthy trade-offs when they're trying to make their mortgage," said study author Dawn Alley, an assistant professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "We think it's a very serious issue."

The study is published in the Oct. 20 online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

In the past few years, the number of foreclosures began to rise with the collapse of the housing bubble and the financial crisis. By 2009, 2.2 percent of all U.S. homes, or more than 2.8 million properties, were in some stage of delinquency, according to background information in the study. People over age 50 made up about one-quarter of defaults and foreclosures, Alley said.

In the study, researchers controlled for demographic factors, health behaviors, chronic diseases, debt and income.

Among the 68 participants who were delinquent on their mortgage, 22 percent developed elevated depressive symptoms over the two-year period compared to 3 percent of th
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