By Emily Badger, May 19
The foreclosure crisis increasingly looks like a public health crisis, too. Researchers have connected foreclosures to depression, stress-related illnesses and spikes in emergency room visits. Last week, The Washington Post’s Dina elBoghdaddy wrote that it even appears foreclosures may raise the blood pressure of neighbors who simply live near these repossessed homes.
Worse yet: A new study in the American Journal of Public Health argues that foreclosures — independent of other economic consequences of the financial crisis — may have contributed to the rise in suicides since 2005. Data suggests, however, that this has been the case only among the age groups for whom the stakes of foreclosure have been arguably the highest.
Researchers Jason Houle at Dartmouth and Michael Light at Purdue looked at state-level suicide rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alongside proprietary foreclosure data from RealtyTrac in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 2005 and 2010. Their analysis compared the two datasets within each state across time, and across each state at fixed moments, controlling for variables captured in data from the American Community Survey (including demographics, unemployment and poverty rates, divorce rates and population density).