Sickening Foreclosures

A New York Times op-ed yesterday by Craig Pollack and political scientist Julia Lynch discusses new research demonstrating the health effects of foreclosures:

A growing body of research shows that foreclosure itself harms the health of families and communities. In our 2008 survey of 250 people undergoing foreclosure in the Philadelphia area, 32 percent reported missing doctor’s appointments and 48 percent said they let prescriptions go unfilled, significantly higher rates than others in their community. A paper released last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that people living in high-foreclosure areas in New Jersey, Arizona, California and Florida were significantly more likely than those in less hard-hit neighborhoods to be hospitalized for conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure.

More than one-third of homeowners in our study had symptoms of major depression. The N.B.E.R. study found significantly more suicide attempts in high-foreclosure neighborhoods. For every 100 foreclosures, it found a 12 percent increase in anxiety-related emergency-room visits and hospitalizations by adults under 50.

The Times piece doesn’t provide links to the actual research, but an article by Pollack and Lynch is here and the NBER paper by Janet Currie and Erdal Terkin is here. The policy conclusions are important:

[..] the settlement negotiations with the financial services industry over mortgage fraud and abuse should include money for health care. Millions of Americans are locked into mortgages they can’t afford. If we can’t help them stay in their homes, the least we can do is help them stay alive.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Erik Voeten

Erik Voeten is the Peter F. Krogh associate professor of geopolitics and global justice at Georgetown University.