Home Foreclosures and Suicide

April 03, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A recent study found that home foreclosures likely contributed to an increase in the suicide rate among middle-aged adults during the foreclosure crisis associated with “the Great Recession.” Based on state by state research, a five percentage point increase in foreclosures in which owners had actually lost their homes was associated with a 25-percent increase in the suicide rate in the 46–64 age group. For people 30–45 years of age, a five-percentage point increase in completed foreclosures was associated with an eight-percent increase in the suicide rate.

Although the analysis found an association between suicide and any stage of foreclosure (including receiving a foreclosure notice), once adjusted for economic variables such as unemployment and poverty, the association was statistically significant only for foreclosures in which the bank or mortgage holder had repossessed the real estate. Each 1-percent increase in the rate of such completed foreclosures was associated with a 0.4 percent increase in a state’s suicide rate.

No significant association between suicide and foreclosure was found for the 18–29 or the 65-and-over age groups. The authors point out that “losing key assets and wealth close to retirement age is likely to have a profound effect on the mental health and well-being of middle-aged individuals.”

This analysis used mortality data from CDC WONDER, foreclosure data covering more than 90 percent of United States households from RealtyTrac, and sociodemographic data from the United States Census American Community Survey.

This summary is from: Houle, J. N., & Light, M. T. (2014). The home foreclosure crisis and rising suicide rates, 2005 to 2010. American Journal of Public Health 104(6), 1073–1079.