Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Foreclosures, More Middle-aged Suicides



In this file photo, Aa sign is posted in front of a bank owned home that is for sale in Richmond, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

More foreclosures, more middle-aged suicides, study finds

The sweeping, nationwide foreclosure crisis was a hallmark of the recession, and as the worst of the crash recedes, researchers are learning more about the economic and social ramifications of losing a home. Research has already established connections between foreclosures and a host of physical and psychological problems, as well as the relationship between unemployment and the suicide rate.
A new study by two sociology professors, Jason Houle at Dartmouth College and Michael Light at Purdue University, combines the two approaches for the first time.

The paper, from the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health, found that even when taking into account other socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, the higher a state's foreclosure rate, the higher the suicide rate.

The analysis shows a particularly strong connection between foreclosures and the suicide rates of the middle-aged, considered 46 to 64 years old in the study. That helps explain some changes that have been unique to the recent downturn.

"We have seen suicide rates go up in the recession, but that's not the big news," says Houle. He says the "real public health puzzle" is that the increase was really driven by the rise of suicide rates of the middle-aged.

Historically, the elderly were most likely to commit suicide, but for the first time since the data have been collected, the middle-aged recently surpassed the older group.

"It does look like rising home foreclosures explain a little less than 20 percent of the rise in suicide rates among the middle-aged," Houle says. That may be because that age group has the highest levels of homeownership, and "losing key assets and wealth close to retirement age is likely to have a profound effect on the mental health and well-being" of the middle-aged, the researchers wrote.
Houle and Light also looked at the effects of when homes are repossessed by banks. Repossessed properties can be a greater indicator of distress than the overall foreclosure rate, which can include less punitive resolutions like short sales.

When banks take back foreclosed homes, they're also responsible for maintaining the properties - which they have done with mixed success. If the bank-owned properties are poorly maintained, that could also have a stronger negative effect on the surrounding community, Houle says.

The connections between the repossession rate and the suicide rate are particularly strong. The analysis found a 5 percent increase in the rate of repossessions corresponds to a 25 percent increase in the suicide rates of the middle-aged.

For researchers, the crisis provides an ongoing - if unfortunate - source to learn from. Although the foreclosure rate is the lowest it's been since late 2008, it's still higher than normal.
Karen Weise is a Bloomberg writer. E-mail: kweise@bloomberg.net


More news for foreclosure suicides


  • Foreclosure Suicide - Huffington Post

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    Anna Cuevas. Recent research concludes that there is a link between foreclosure rates and mental and physical health problems, as well as suicide attempts.
  • Anna Cuevas: Foreclosure Related Suicide on the Rise

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    Jul 17, 2012 - Recent research concludes that there is a link between foreclosure rates and mental and physical health problems, as well as suicide attempts.
  • Foreclosures may be driving the rise in suicides

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    May 19, 2014 - The foreclosure crisis increasingly looks like a public health crisis, too. Researchers have connected foreclosures to depression, stress-related ...
  • More Foreclosures Means More Suicides, Study Finds | Slog

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    4 hours ago - South Seattle woman Phyllis Walsh shot herself on her front lawn two days before her eviction last year, after she was foreclosed on by US ...
  • Foreclosure-Related Suicide: Sign of the Times? - ABC News

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    Jul 25, 2008 - Is Foreclosure Suicide a Sign of Times? ... "By the time you foreclose on my house, I'll be dead." So read the note that 53-year-old Carlene ...
  • Death By Foreclosure | Crooks and Liars

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    May 24, 2012 - There is no database that keeps track of foreclosure related suicides, and that is likely because it's difficult to label a death due to foreclosure ...
  • Over 300K home owner suicides attributed to foreclosures.

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    Apr 25, 2014 - A reader recently asked us to check a social media meme with a striking statistic about foreclosures and suicides. It said, "1.4 million homes ...
  • Link Found Between Foreclosures & Suicides - Psych Central

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    1 day ago - Link Found Between Foreclosures and Suicides A new study finds that the recent U.S. foreclosure crisis has contributed significantly to the ...
  • More Foreclosures and Suicides than During the Great ...

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    May 17, 2013 - The San Francisco Chronicle notes that it is difficult to keep track of foreclosure rates now … let alone during the Great Depression: Foreclosure ...

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