Losing Your Home Can Be Deadly

by Jonah Shepp


John Upton reviews new research that finds a link between foreclosures and suicides, particularly among middle-aged adults:

To search for relationships between foreclosure and suicide rates, the researchers controlled for certain variables like the unemployment rate, and then honed in on intrastate data. … These steps led the researchers to a grim discovery—one that implicates banks’ irresponsible lending practices in more than just the death of middle-class prosperity.

“Our results suggest that the foreclosure crisis significantly contributed to the increase in suicides in the Great Recession,” the researchers write in their paper.

A statistically significant within-state foreclosure effect on suicide rates was detected between 2005 and 2010 for two age groups studied—30- to 45-year-olds, and 46- to 64-year-olds. The effect for 30- to 45-year-olds was small. It was vast for those who were still of working age but approaching retirement, helping explain the 18 percent suicide rate among 46- to 64-year-olds. [Dartmouth sociologist Jason] Houle says the findings help explain the puzzling rise in middle-aged suicide rates in a recession-wrecked nation.