The study, publishing in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health and available online now, is the first to ever show a correlation between foreclosure and suicide rates.
The authors analyzed state-level foreclosure and suicide rates from 2005 to 2010. During that period, the U.S. suicide rate increased nearly 13 percent, and annual home foreclosures hit a record 2.9 million (in 2010).
“It seems that foreclosures affect suicide rates in two ways,” said co-author Jason Houle, assistant professor of sociology at Dartmouth College. “The loss of a home clearly impacts individuals and families, and can arouse feelings of loss, shame, or regret. At the same time, rising foreclosure rates affect entire communities because they’re associated with a number of community level resources and stresses, including an increase in crime, abandoned homes, and a sense of insecurity.”
The effects of foreclosures on suicides were strongest among adults 46 to 64 years old, who also experienced the highest increase in suicide rates during the recessionary period.
Given the (1) relative importance of owning a home as a means of providing for one’s family as well as signaling one’s status and (2) the relative financial burden of having a mortgage (usually far beyond credit card or student loan debt), this makes some sense. At the same time, this study tackles the issue from a broad perspective without being able to link individual neighborhoods or cases to certain outcomes.