The onset of depression during the great recession: foreclosure and older adult mental health

Am J Public Health. 2014 Mar;104(3):498-505. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301566. Epub 2014 Jan 21.


Objectives: We examined neighborhood-level foreclosure rates and their association with onset of depressive symptoms in older adults.

Methods: We linked data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (2005-2006 and 2010-2011 waves), a longitudinal, nationally representative survey, to data on zip code-level foreclosure rates, and predicted the onset of depressive symptoms using logit-linked regression.

Results: Multiple stages of the foreclosure process predicted the onset of depressive symptoms, with adjustment for demographic characteristics and changes in household assets, neighborhood poverty, and visible neighborhood disorder. A large increase in the number of notices of default (odds ratio [OR] = 1.75; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.14, 2.67) and properties returning to ownership by the bank (OR = 1.62; 95% CI = 1.06, 2.47) were associated with depressive symptoms. A large increase in properties going to auction was suggestive of such an association (OR = 1.45; 95% CI = 0.96, 2.19). Age, fewer years of education, and functional limitations also were predictive.

Conclusions: Increases in neighborhood-level foreclosure represent an important risk factor for depression in older adults. These results accord with previous studies suggesting that the effects of economic crises are typically first experienced through deficits in emotional well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Economic Recession*
  • Health Surveys
  • Housing / economics*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Ownership / economics
  • Stress, Psychological / complications