Background: A defining feature of the US economic downturn of 2008-2010 was the alarming rate of home foreclosure. Although a substantial number of US households have experienced foreclosure since 2008, the effects of foreclosure on mental health are unknown. We examined the effects of foreclosure on psychiatric symptomatology in a prospective, population-based community survey.
Method: Data were drawn from the Detroit Neighborhoods and Health Study (DNHS), waves 1 and 2 (2008-2010). A probability sample of predominantly African-American adults in Detroit, Michigan participated (n=1547). We examined the association between home foreclosure between waves 1 and 2 and increases in symptoms of DSM-IV major depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Results: The most common reasons for foreclosure were an increase in monthly payments, an increase in non-medical expenses and a reduction in family income. Exposure to foreclosure between waves 1 and 2 predicted symptoms of major depression and GAD at wave 2, controlling for symptoms at wave 1. Even after adjusting for wave 1 symptoms, sociodemographics, lifetime history of psychiatric disorder at wave 1 and exposure to other financial stressors between waves 1 and 2, foreclosure was associated with an increased rate of symptoms of major depression [incidence density ratio (IDR) 2.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.6-3.6] and GAD (IDR 1.9, 95% CI 1.4-2.6).
Conclusions: We provide the first prospective evidence linking foreclosure to the onset of mental health problems. These results, combined with the high rate of home foreclosure since 2008, suggest that the foreclosure crisis may have adverse effects on the mental health of the US population.