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Craig E. Pollack and Julia F. Lynch: "More than one-third of homeowners in our study had symptoms of major depression. The NBER study found significantly more suicide attempts in high-foreclosure neighborhoods. For every 100 foreclosures, it found a 12 percent increase in anxiety-related emergency-room visits and hospitalizations by adults under 50. Losing a home disrupts social ties to neighbors, schools, jobs and health care providers - ties that under better circumstances promote good health. Neighborhoods suffer, not just homeowners."

(art: file)
(art: file)

Foreclosures Are Killing Us

By Craig E. Pollack and Julia F. Lynch, The New York Times

17 August 10


fter slowing down in the first half of the year, the rate of homes entering foreclosure is rising again. First-time default notices were served on 78,000 homes in August, a 33 percent increase from July. A $1 billion federal program to help jobless and underemployed homeowners ended Friday. Foreclosure notices were filed against a record 2.9 million properties last year, and an additional 1.2 million in the first half of this year.

Foreclosure is not just a metaphorical epidemic, but a bona fide public health crisis. When breadwinners become ill, they miss work, lose their jobs, face daunting medical bills - and have trouble making mortgage payments as a result.

But that is only part of the story. A growing body of research shows that foreclosure itself harms the health of families and communities. In our 2008 survey of 250 people undergoing foreclosure in the Philadelphia area, 32 percent reported missing doctor's appointments and 48 percent said they let prescriptions go unfilled, significantly higher rates than others in their community. A paper released last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that people living in high-foreclosure areas in New Jersey, Arizona, California and Florida were significantly more likely than those in less hard-hit neighborhoods to be hospitalized for conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure.

More than one-third of homeowners in our study had symptoms of major depression. The NBER study found significantly more suicide attempts in high-foreclosure neighborhoods. For every 100 foreclosures, it found a 12 percent increase in anxiety-related emergency-room visits and hospitalizations by adults under 50. Losing a home disrupts social ties to neighbors, schools, jobs and health care providers - ties that under better circumstances promote good health. Neighborhoods suffer, not just homeowners.

Most programs to stem the tide of foreclosures rely on mortgage counselors at nonprofit groups supported by federal grants, who work closely with homeowners and banks to try to find a financial resolution.

These counselors have become, of necessity, crisis counselors - in a national survey of 395 mortgage counselors we conducted in January, 37 percent said they had worked with at least one homeowner in the past month who was considering suicide - but they need to be trained to quickly and efficiently screen for illnesses like depression. In fact, health care should be part of a comprehensive approach to foreclosure prevention; for example, mental health caseworkers should be embedded in mortgage counseling agencies.

Screening and treatment may actually help some families keep their homes. Studies of unemployed people have shown that treating depression can improve the chances of landing a new job. Such treatment might also help homeowners undertake the daunting documentation and financial planning that foreclosure prevention programs demand.

In a time of fiscal strain and rising need, where will the money come from? For one thing, the settlement negotiations with the financial services industry over mortgage fraud and abuse should include money for health care. Millions of Americans are locked into mortgages they can't afford. If we can't help them stay in their homes, the least we can do is help them stay alive.

Craig E. Pollack is an assistant professor of internal medicine at Johns Hopkins. Julia F. Lynch is an associate professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. your social media marketing partner


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+5 # DaveM 2011-10-03 21:50
I'm surprised that this article limits discussion to foreclosures. People--mainly men--lose homes to divorce, phony accusations of domestic abuse, and the like in large numbers every year. And you know what? They suffer the same pain as those whose woes are currently in fashion.
+7 # Rick Levy 2011-10-03 23:15
Shhh! You are being politically incorrect.
+13 # Todd Williams 2011-10-04 06:39
I'm sure you're right about that. However, the point of the article was to show that foreclosures are also a culprit in mental stress, just like the other issues you mentioned. Also, I would hardly refer to foreclosures as "woes currently in fashion." That seems a little callous to me.
+11 # propsguy 2011-10-04 12:23
yes, indeed, a typical percentage of the population loses their homes due to individual unfortunate circumstances every year. however, when there is a wave of mass foreclosures cutting through the population, you can't point the finger at the reasons you listed above- even when the accusations of domestic abuse are genuine (gosh, you are a bitter person- women typically see their standards of living plummet after a divorce, but that's another topic entirely).
what's happening now is a land grab, plain and simple and it will have enormous ramifications on the future of the country. will you be allowed to own property? will this be a democracy? or will you be a slave to the 1% autocracy that owns everything?
+6 # forparity 2011-10-03 22:27

"In 1995, a senior Clinton Administration official shared with me the Administration' s targets for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage volumes in low- and moderate-income communities. We had recently reviewed the Admin's plans to increase gov't mortgage guarantees — most of these mortgages would also be pooled and sold as securities to investors. Even in 1995, I could see that these plans would create unserviceable debt loads in communities struggling with the falling incomes expected from globalization. Homeowners would default on mortgages while losses on mortgage-backed securities would drain retirement savings from 401(k)s and pension plans. Taxpayers would ultimately be hit with a large bill . . . but insiders would make a bundle.

I looked at the official and said that the Administration was planning on issuing more mortgages than there were houses or residents. “Shut up, this is none of your business,” the official snapped back."

After the mechanisms were in place and troops on the ground were ready to sign em all up:


These people destroyed the US - and tens and tens of millions of lives.
-1 # Ken Hall 2011-10-04 20:48
Yes, we know rightwingers are trying their best to blame the FMs for the great calamity that deregulation of the financial markets brought to the US and the world. Why then, did the number of mortgage backed securities rise steeply after the Bush administration came into office? And stay high until the crash, i.e. there was no attempt to bring integrity and regulation to the mortgage market. Bush bragged about his admin doing all they could to make home ownership possible, and "Free Markets" Greenspan did nothing to keep the housing bubble from inflating to catastrophic dimensions. I encourage all interested parties to read William Black's article "A Large Financial Crisis, A Small Number of Subprime Loans".
-3 # forparity 2011-10-04 22:25
Why then, did the number of mortgage backed securities rise steeply after the Bush administration came into office?

Duh -- with all due respect; other than the fact that 9 months before the economy had collapsed, and tens of millions of folks had come to expect 16% average annual returns on a regular basis, and lending standards for poor minorities had been ordered lowered to linoleum level, and interest rates were headed down to record lows, I suppose that the model was set when Bush came in -- with this tail wind:


And, for the record, Bush did put forth an admirable effort to put a plug in the bubble in 2003, but you know that - he was attacked viciously for it. And, he failed miserably.

Look at when the sub-prime market went viral.

I spent 2 hours talking (an drinking) with a successful Beverly Hills realtor the other day - and he said that the entire real estate market understands what created this very dangerous bubble that set the stage for all that occurred. But, that's not rocket science, is it?
+1 # Ken Hall 2011-10-06 06:07
William Black has a long history in and comprehensive knowledge of the US bankng system. His article does mention the FMs in passing, but not as the originators of the "liar's loans" that are the subject of the article, and which he identifies as the major cause of mortgage failure. I agree, it's not rocket science; when financial markets are free from sensible regulation they are open to chicanery and fraud.
+18 # giraffee2012 2011-10-03 22:43
VOTE DEM VOTE OBAMA and mostly VOTE in 2012 - or we'll get more of 2010.

Get the minority, old, etc neighborhoods (get others to go with you from your local Dem headquarters) Voting in USA is still free. Tell these people their IDs are FREE and all of you get registered and get mail-in ballots. Nobody can stop you from taking them to a polling place (or early to a P.O. or library or other such) so your VOTE is counted.

In fact, if you can, volunteer to COUNT ballots. And if you have machines --you are entitled to ask for a paper ballot and you can PUT your paper ballot IN the box (don't let those on duty do it)

We will double dip but thanks to "Occupy W.S." and the people in WI and OH -- we will, by example, PREVAIL!

The reason we are short on $$. Those bankers who were closed were allowed to walk away will BILLIONS - add it up and you will notice that is Trillions!

With a Dem Congress + W.H. we will see change! Believe me. I'm Jewish and old.
+27 # BLBreck 2011-10-03 22:49
In San Diego, CA, in June alone there were five family murders that ended with Dad committing suicide. Jobs were lost, health insurance lost, and homes were foreclosed on, some end in the home being set afire. Meanwhile, programs to get help are constantly cut.

One of the ironies is that instead of allowing the homeowners to pay on the current value of their home to enable them to stay, the homes are sold for the reduced amount (often to speculators.) Often they are left empty, not maintained by the banks, so they become a blight and a danger to the neighborhood, attracting squatters that may be involved in drugs and prostitution, and bring down home values further.

The bank CEO's that caused and are causing this should be prosecuted for murder and of course the fraud often being perpetrated.

Another off-shoot of the foreclosure crisis is that rents are sky rocketing as landlords take advantage of the problem. My landlords have raised my rent by $120 a month in the last 6 months... I may be forced into homelessness as well because of this.

Your article is sadly spot on. This is the economic injustice that is sparking Occupy Wall Street, which is spreading rapidly though the US, Canada and I hear the UK is next.
+2 # Todd Williams 2011-10-04 06:46
I heard of a movement in Miami, FL whereby lawyers are helping people move back into their foreclosed homes. They file suits against the mortgage holders, thus tying them up in court. Then the people break into their own homes, change the locks and continue lliving there. In most cases, the banks are unaware of the people reoccupying their homes because there are just too many foreclosed properties to keep track.
+1 # Capn Canard 2011-10-04 14:26
Todd Williams, this sounds like something Cheri Honkala would start... in case you don't know she is a long time homeless advocate that has helped people break into abandoned houses so that they would have a place to stay out of the elements... I believe she has been most active in Philly.
+2 # MainStreetMentor 2011-10-04 08:30
Whoa! Foreclosures aren't the problem - they are only the effects of the problem. The problem is Wall Street, RepubTeacan enabled, Greed! This article addresses the symptom - not the cause!
+7 # reiverpacific 2011-10-04 08:37
If you think about it, this mortgage scam and foreclosure is all tied together with the relentless push towards privatization of everything, and the reluctance of the people who really run this country to enhance public transport and infrastructure.
It's all in the name of not just profit and greed but principally DESTRUCTION OF COMMUNITY, which is the last refuge of the submerged 99% which enables any kind of solidarity, push back, and fragments communication between anyone in opposition to the power-structure.
We went through a year of foreclosure to a loan modification (with the help of a very capable HUD representative) and I know what it did to us mentally. I still thank the powers of the Universe that my wife and I love to laugh and we both have our creative outlets but we were looking at losing not only our home but business premises also. We're still working on the second we took out to cover our original home payments until it sold (and which we eventually lost due to the sudden nosedive of the real estate market).
The big-shits are intent on reducing us to slave status without recourse and would have us live in company shacks, shop at company stores (disguised as Walmart) and what better method than to demoralize and ultimately disenfranchise as many as possible than to remove all incentives to quality of life?
+2 # Vardette 2011-10-04 19:31
Remember Bush's mantra. THE OWNERSHIP SOCIETY!

Bush actually prohibited states from trying to stop predatory lending.

He and his gang planned all this out-

I think its all part of one big agenda

And that is impoverishing us as they enrich themselves and turn us into slave labor population. 8 bucks an hr, take home 6 is not a living wage.

I was making $5 in 73 and that wasn't that mush then.
+3 # fredboy 2011-10-04 11:51
Yes, to many foreclosure--li ke bankruptcy--can prompt sustained anxiety and depression.

While I cast much blame on those who hawked cheap, quick mortgages, I fear I must also share the lesson of those who drank their Kool-Aid. I had friends who "just had to have" a mega-mansion (two are now more than $1 million "underwater"), two others who bought multiple properties they could not afford and failed to "flip" them as planned, and many who went for initially low-interest mortgages with "balloon" payments schedule later--and were devoured by the balloon.

The key to all of this is this: control your own financial house and destiny. Quit taking the bait. Live frugally. Save. Get and stay out of debt. And control your own retirement funds--don't turn them over to stock churners who don't give a rat's ass about performance and only want to generate trading fees.

Consider: Not one story in this prolonged nightmare has featured people who were forced at gunpoint to take out a mortgage. They did it voluntarily. And, as the law requires, knowingly. But millions did NOT take the time to understand what they were doing and what negative consequences may result if things go wrong.

Wishing the victims the best. But in many cases let's be honest enough to recognize that some also helped make the current problems possible.
0 # fredboy 2011-10-04 11:59
And by the way, REMORSE for one's actions is one of the most devastating, longest lasting of all human agonies.

It is one thing to overcome being harmed by others. Even worse is living, day to day, with the realization that great harm was brought on by oneself.

This is why so many individuals, families, cities, and states in the South never recovered after the Civil War. They realized they initiated actions that resulted in their own devastation.
+4 # NAMcCracken 2011-10-04 12:40
Last month, I got a notice from Chase Mortgage that they were jacking my mortgate rate up from $466 a month (which I can afford) to $533.Which I cannot afford. I bought a foreclosed home. I have a 30 year fixed rate at 5.2%
The reason for the increase? They had to
maintain my 'escrow' account. They waited 9 months without paying my insurance, then when I nearly got it cancelled, they finally did pay, and then tried to jack up my mortgage payment. I asked them why I couldn't pay my own taxes and insurance. They said it
was 'against the law' for me to handle my own taxes and insurance. They lied. I told them so. They insisted. I told them that, if necessary, I'd sit outside their bank on a chair on a public sidewalk, holding a sign that said 'This bank lies to and cheats disabled old ladies!' I also said I would call every TV news station in town. Whaddya know, they caved! I am now paying my own taxes and insurance, monthly, and it is perfectly legal for me to do so. And it reduced my payment down to $455!
I like the guys who go back and re-occupy their own homes! Banks, including B of A and Chase, et al, are behaving like they are governments. You'd be surprised at how many 'have to's' from banks, aren't. Fight back. You can.
+2 # reiverpacific 2011-10-04 13:02
To reinforce the foregoing statements (and good for you "NAMcCracken"!) , I was told by a secretary at the HUD agency we used in Hillsboro, Oregon (which also did free meals for the needy -see the link?) that the Counsellors had to continually take training courses out of their days JUST TO KEEP UP WITH the new dirty tricks the banks and mortgage companies were coming up with to confuse and get around foreclosure victims in order to get their properties back.
I'm not a paranoid conspiracy-theo rist but this certainly sounds like a "Foreheads villainous low" piece of organized skullduggery to m, robo-signers and all!
+2 # Todd Williams 2011-10-04 16:29
My daughter missed two mortgage payments to good old Bank of America. She has one child and an ex who has never, ever paid one red cent of child support (he lives in the great state of Alabama and she lives in Ohio). She was laid off but went back to work at 2 part time gigs and sent a check for the 2 month's back mortgage payments. Guess what? The bank filed foreclosure against her property. Now she's fighting to hold on to her home and has taken a third job. This only tells me the bank wants to grab private property. This is the biggest land grab scheme since the Native Americans were ripped off!
+1 # Vardette 2011-10-04 19:26

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