Housing Strain, Mortgage Foreclosure, and Health

As subprime lending decreased over the past decade, mortgage defaults and home foreclosures increased. In 2008, 1.84 percent of all homes in the United States were in the process of foreclosure—more than 2.3 million properties. In the current U.S. housing crisis, better understanding of how economic stress impacts health is needed.

This study specifically looks at housing status and its impact on health by using a cross-sectional design of 798 residents in California, Arizona, Nevada and Florida. Data came from analysis of foreclosure Internet discussion board posts that identified categories of distressed homeowners’ perceived health and social concerns, and from survey data from an online consumer panel to examine whether health issues were reported differently between distressed homeowners and secure homeowners and renters.

Key Findings:

  • An average of 63.7 percent of monthly income went to housing costs for homeowners in default or foreclosure.
  • Homeowners in default or foreclosure showed poorer mental health and more physical symptoms than others—renters, homeowners with moderate strain and homeowners with no strain.
  • 22.9 percent of homeowners in default or foreclosure who reported they were in fair or poor health and 13.62 percent reported symptoms of serious psychological distress.

This study contributes to understanding how deficits in material resources can impact health, even when controlling for income. As part of a high-risk group, people who are experiencing home foreclosures may require and benefit from coordinated, affordable health and social services.