Nearly half of people studied while undergoing foreclosure reported depressive symptoms, and 37% met screening criteria for major depression, according to new University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine research published online this week in the American Journal of Public Health. Many also reported an inability to afford prescription drugs, and skipping meals.
The authors say their findings should serve as a call for policy-makers to tie health interventions into their response to the nation's ongoing housing crisis.
"The foreclosure crisis is also a health crisis," says lead author Craig E. Pollack. "We need to do more to ensure that if people lose their homes, they don't also lose their health."
In addition to the high number of participants reporting depression symptoms, the study of 250 Philadelphia homeowners undergoing foreclosure also shed light on other healthcare problems that may be spurred by difficulties keeping up with housing costs.
The study participants were recruited with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley. The authors found that compared to a sample of residents in the general public, those in foreclosure were more likely to be uninsured (22% compared to 8%), though similar health problems were seen among both the insured and uninsured. Nearly 60% reported that they had skipped or delayed meals because they couldn't afford food, and people undergoing foreclosure were also more likely to have forgone filling a prescription because of the expense during the preceding year (48% versus 15%).
The study also revealed that for 9% of respondents, a medical condition in their family was the primary reason for the home foreclosure, and more than a quarter of those surveyed said they had significant unpaid medical bills.
SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania