Foreclosures Are Killing Us

October 3, 2011
New York Times P. A21
mortgage lending news

Despite a recent slowdown in home foreclosures, the numbers are now rising with 78,000 homes served first-time default notices in August -- up 33 percent from the previous month. On top of the economic impact, academia warns that foreclosures also represent a public health crisis. According to Johns Hopkins assistant professor of internal medicine Craig E. Pollack and University of Pennsylvania associate professor of political science Julia F. Lynch, there is a growing evidence that suggests that foreclosure hurts the health of both families and communities. In their 2008 survey of 250 people undergoing foreclosure in and near Philadelphia, 32 percent reported missing doctor's appointments and 48 percent said they left prescriptions unfilled. A paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, meanwhile, found that people living in areas with high foreclosures were significantly more likely to be hospitalized for conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Lynch and Pollack's study found that more than a third of homeowners had symptoms of serious depression, wile the NBER research documented more suicide attempts in high-foreclosure neighborhoods. Mortgage counselors have become a type of crisis counselor, with 37 percent saying they have worked with at least one homeowner in the past month who had contemplated suicide. The professors say screening and treatment could actually keep some families in their homes and that those who cannot be helped in that way still may need medical attention. "If we can't help them stay in their homes," the writers conclude, "the least we can do is help them stay alive." They suggest that settlement negotiations between the government and big mortgage lenders could provide the critical resources to sponsor appropriate counseling programs.
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