Mortgage defaults are causing health problems in people over 50

For people who've had to foreclose on their mortgages over the past few years, the consequences can be more than financial. A group of epidemiologists have discovered that people over the age of 50 who've suffered through mortgage defaults are also facing deteriorating health as a result.

The study was led by University of Maryland epidemiologist Dawn E. Alley, who said:

More than a quarter of people in mortgage default or foreclosure are over 50. For an older person with chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension, the types of health problems we saw are short term consequences of falling behind on a mortgage that could have long-run implications for that person's health.


A major health issue for this group, not surprisingly, is depression. After defaulting, 22 percent of people developed what Alley called "depressive symptoms." Their difficult situations were compounded by the fact that 28 percent of the group said they were struggling to afford food, and 35 percent had to stop taking much-needed medications because they could no longer afford them.

A release about the study explained how it was able to capture information about what happened to Americans' health after the wave of foreclosures swept the country:

The study began just as mortgage delinquencies and subsequent home foreclosures began to rise in the United States, driven mainly by increases in mortgage payments related to adjustable rate loans. Dr. Alley says the health picture is much worse today because rising mortgage defaults are compounded by unemployment. "Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the number of Americans with depression has been increasing along with rising unemployment."

While this information may seem like common sense, this study is one of the only examples where such "common sense" has actually been confirmed scientifically.

Read the full scientific article via the American Journal of Public Health



While tragic, the researchers are confusing cause and effect. The actual data tells the story of those under economic stress suffering from depression and rising healthcare costs. The mortgage issue is at best simply one of a number of financial issues and at worst entirely immaterial. This is a case of a study looking for exposure and seeing the hot button of foreclosure as a means to attract attention. What the study shows is that the elderly need financial security as a necessary part of good healthcare. There is no specific correlation between foreclosure and health. The foreclosure happened late in the test subject's financial and medical downturn - it was not the pivotal factor.

This is a diversion from actual issues like medicare and the cost of retirement.