Foreclosure Can Make You Sick, Study Finds

NEW YORK (MainStreet) —  Foreclosures aren’t only impacting the housing market. They’re also making residents who experience them sick, says a new  report from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Researchers compared data on emergency room visits and hospital discharges in four of the hardest hits states – Arizona, California, Florida and New Jersey – to foreclosure data from Realty Trac, a firm that monitors the market from 2005 to 2009.

They discovered the increased number of foreclosures in each area correlated with increases in medical visits for mental health, such as anxiety and suicide attempts; preventable conditions, such as hypertension; and a broad array of physical complaints that are commonly stress-related. For instance, the report cites a large increase in the number of hospital visits described as “malaise,” which includes “fever of unknown origin,” abdominal pain, nausea and so on.

“The results suggest that it is having negative consequences [on] not only the health of the U.S. economy, but also on the health of millions of individuals going through foreclosure,” co-authors Janet Currie and Erdal Tekin write in the report. “We find that there are significant effects on mental health, preventable conditions, and a wide range of conditions that are susceptible to stress.”

Conversely, researchers did not find a correlation between an increased number of foreclosures and an increased number of cancer morbidity or elective procedures.

“We identified cancer as a ‘control’ condition,” Currie and Tekin explain. “Stress related to foreclosures should not immediately cause cancer, though it is possible that it could, for example, increase infection rates among cancer victims.”

They also found foreclosures are not affecting all residents equally. Adverse health effects were exhibited more in individuals 20 to 49. Additionally, results of the study indicate health problems are more likely to be experienced by African-Americans and Hispanics than for whites, “consistent with the perception that minorities have been particularly hard hit,” the report reads. 

Researchers said they plan to do follow-up studies that look into whether or not other variables, such as high unemployment levels, are contributing to the health problems of individuals in these areas. They also plan on looking into whether foreclosures are affecting the health of children.

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