Study Links Home Foreclosures With Health Complaints

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The threat of losing your home is stressful enough to make you ill, it stands to reason. Now two economists have measured just how unhealthy the foreclosure crisis has been in some of the hardest-hit areas of the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

New research by Janet Currie of Princeton University and Erdal Tekin of Georgia State University shows a direct correlation between foreclosure rates and the health of residents in Arizona, California, Florida and New Jersey.

The economists concluded in a paper published this month by the Cambridge, Mass., based National Bureau of Economic Research that an increase of 100 foreclosures corresponded to a 7.2 percent rise in emergency room visits and hospitalizations for hypertension, and an 8.1 percent increase for diabetes, among people aged 20 to 49.

Each rise of 100 foreclosures was also associated with 12 percent more visits related to anxiety in the same age category. And the same rise in foreclosures was associated with 39 percent more visits for suicide attempts among the same group, though this still represents a small number of patients, the researchers say.

Teasing out cause and effect can be delicate, and correlation does not necessarily mean foreclosures directly cause health problems. Financial duress, among other issues, could lead to health problems -- and cause foreclosures, too.