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Foreclosures drive up suicide rates, study finds

"Losing assets at that stage in life is likely to have a profound effect on mental health and well-being," said Jason Houle.
By Brooks Hays   |   May 16, 2014 at 4:16 PM   |   Comments

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HANOVER, N.H., May 16 (UPI) -- Data analysis has previously shown economic downturn to provoke an increase in suicide rates, but a new study shows an even stronger correlation between suicides and foreclosure rates.

According to research published this week in the American Journal of Public Health, higher rates of suicide are uniquely linked to spikes in foreclosures.

By comparing state-by-state suicide rates with the numbers of issued foreclosures -- while accounting for other disruptive factors -- the researchers were able to conclude that the correlation was "independent of other economic factors associated with the recession."

"It seems that foreclosures affect suicide rates in two ways," explained Jason Houle, co-author of the new study and assistant professor of sociology at Dartmouth. "The loss of a home clearly impacts individuals and families, and can arouse feelings of loss, shame or regret."

"At the same time, rising foreclosure rates affect entire communities," Houle added, "because they're associated with a number of community-level resources and stresses, including an increase in crime, abandoned homes, and a sense of insecurity."

Not surprisingly, the correlation between suicide and foreclosure was highest among those ages 46 to 64 -- homeowners nearing retirement.

"Losing assets at that stage in life is likely to have a profound effect on mental health and well-being," Houle pointed out.

The study is bad news for the state of New Jersey, which recently passed Florida as the state with the highest rate of mortgages in foreclosure.

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