NYT: Foreclosures Are Killing Us

According to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, foreclosures and health problems appear to be related. Does this mean that foreclosures themselves cause the health problems? The authors of the paper seem to think that foreclosures are certainly a factor, according to this Op Ed in the New York Times.

Although the data may indicate that individuals in hard-hit neighborhoods have more health problems overall, foreclosures themselves are likely not the only factor. Those who lack access to affordable health care are going to have more health problems. This seems to be borne out by the study's data:

"Of the 250 people recruited, 36.7% met screening criteria for major depression. The foreclosure sample was significantly more likely than the community sample to not have insurance coverage (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 2.28; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.49, 3.48) and to not have filled a prescription because of cost in the preceding year (AOR = 3.44; 95% CI = 2.45, 4.83). Approximately 9% of the participants reported that their own or a family member's medical condition was the primary reason they were undergoing foreclosure. More than a quarter of those in foreclosure (27.7%) stated that they owed money to medical creditors."

This lack of access to health care clearly contributes to the health problems of those in harder-hit neighborhoods. Adding the stress of a foreclosure, unemployment, etc. to the mix is sure to exacerbate these issues.

What is most interesting about the study is that the problem also presents a unique opportunity to help solve the problem. In particular, it may be possible to combine mortgage foreclosure outreach with medical outreach. Treating those who are experiencing depression may help improve the ability to find work. At very least, it can remove a factor from the equasion, providing one less stressor to exacerbate health issues.

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