The Onset of Depression During the Great Recession: Foreclosure and Older Adult Mental Health


87 Years Later & What has Changed in America?

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Take Away Message from Research:

Foreclosure not only affects individual households, its reach is felt by those who are left with lower-density communities, properties in disrepair, and a general sense of disinvestment and social withdrawal. Study indicates that physical signs of disorder are associated with reports of depression.


Researchers  observed a dramatic uptick in reports of depressive symptoms among older adults who were exposed to communities most severely affected by the foreclosure crisis.  Foreclosure is likely a sign of disorder in its own right; a posting of foreclosure, regardless of the quality of the property in arrears, signals instability and disinvestment akin to trash on the street or sidewalks in disrepair.

The costs of depression are difficult to assess, but depression’s impact has been documented in lost work days, physical health decline, and degraded social relationships.   Those who experience depressive symptoms may be particularly vulnerable to these associated ills since their health already may be compromised (by failure to obtain health care, stress and isolation- emphasis added). Our results suggest that some portion of depression onset in older adults is yet another consequence of the Great Recession.

Tip to for finding this tragic and relevant article:

Study here:Foreclosure and Depression


The Onset of Depression During the Great Recession: Foreclosure and Older Adult Mental Health

Objectives. We examined neighborhood-level foreclosure rates and their association with onset of depressive symptoms in older adults.

Methods. We linked data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (2005–2006 and 2010–2011 waves), a longitudinal, nationally representative survey, to data on zip code–level foreclosure rates, and predicted the onset of depressive symptoms using logit-linked regression.

Results. Multiple stages of the foreclosure process predicted the onset of depressive symptoms, with adjustment for demographic characteristics and changes in household assets, neighborhood poverty, and visible neighborhood disorder. A large increase in the number of notices of default (odds ratio [OR] = 1.75; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.14, 2.67) and properties returning to ownership by the bank (OR = 1.62; 95% CI = 1.06, 2.47) were associated with depressive symptoms. A large increase in properties going to auction was suggestive of such an association (OR = 1.45; 95% CI = 0.96, 2.19). Age, fewer years of education, and functional limitations also were predictive.


Conclusions. Increases in neighborhood-level foreclosure represent an important risk factor for depression in older adults. These results accord with previous studies suggesting that the effects of economic crises are typically first experienced through deficits in emotional well-being.


Recent evidence suggests that the foreclosure crisis, emerging in full force in 2007, has had devastating effects on the housing market and on the condition of housing units in neighborhoods with high rates of foreclosure. Economic models point to significant neighborhood externalities associated with increases in foreclosure rates and extant research suggests that the impact of an economic downturn may first be felt through depression.

Depression, in turn, has important implications for physical health, quality of life, and the cost of medical care. Research on the association between neighborhood social context and depression suggests that the surrounding neighborhood environment may have independent effects on depression, over and above individual influences.


Research on foreclosure and health is limited, but ecological analyses suggest an association between a spike in foreclosures and use of health services, such as unscheduled hospital visits. To our knowledge, no research has examined the role of the economic downturn, or the “Great Recession,” in the onset of depression with a focus on the residential context in which individuals observe economic decline. We therefore explored the onset of depression over the interval of the economic downturn with a unique data source, the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), and with attention to one visible sign of economic decline—household foreclosures.


Fortuitously, NSHAP wave 1 (W1) was collected in 2005 and 2006 and wave 2 (W2) in 2010 and 2011, thus bounding the economic downturn and foreclosure crisis. We linked these data with national foreclosure data to examine the effect of neighborhood foreclosure rates on the onset of depressive symptoms. NSHAP is a study of older adults (≥ 57 years), a group for whom the experience of foreclosure in the residential environment may be particularly relevant.


More than 1.5 million older adults lost their homes between 2007 and 2011; by 2011, the foreclosure rate for this age group was more than 8 times what it had been at the inception of the crisis. The Federal Reserve reports that nearly one half of households whose head is aged 65 to 74 years have no retirement account savings,  making the value of one’s home, and the fear of its loss, of even greater concern. Although the absolute risk of foreclosure may still be relatively low for older adults, the experience of an increase in that risk in the immediate neighborhood environment may nevertheless have consequences. Furthermore, the effects of foreclosure at the neighborhood level may be borne most heavily by older residents. Retirement and mobility limitations may diminish the radius of routine activity; the immediate neighborhood environment may then become more important because the greater share of one’s day is spent in neighborhood space.


Drawing on physical and social disorder approaches in urban sociology and research on neighborhoods and mental health in social epidemiology, we hypothesized that increased foreclosure rates in the immediate environment and the corresponding decline in the condition of housing may affect onset of depression and reports of depressive symptoms.

A key component of our model was that foreclosure and deteriorated housing, the increased presence of vacant or abandoned buildings, and the associated potential for increased criminal activity may have significant consequences for mental health. Physical disorder (e.g., boarded-up buildings, infrastructure deterioration) may combine with indicators of social decline (e.g., crime, loitering), leading to a depressed mood, fear, and social withdrawal. Mental health states such as these may discourage contact among residents and lead to lower levels of street activity, further disconnecting older adults from potentially important sources of local social support and interaction. Thus the erosion of neighborhood life that accompanies high rates of foreclosure may have a significant impact on the mental health of its residents.

9 Responses

  1. I now have an official diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder caused by not one, not two, but three foreclosures. My first home was illegally foreclosed by BoA and I was locked out. Most of my belongings were denied me.

    My second home I filed a rescission. The title was transferred to fnma and they foreclosed anyway. In the UD, I requested accommodations for my disabilities and was denied. This is a violation of the ADA and I have grounds for a complaint against the court, possibly having the case re-opened. The case was dismissed for lack of prosecution. Then the sheriff showed up and traumatized me. (I still do not know how they got the case reopened and a judgment, if that is what happened.) I was not allowed to take anything with me but my support dog. I had cash and cashiers checks in the home. They were stolen. I recovered the funds from the cashiers checks, but the cash is just gone. I am now staying in a room at friends’ home and fighting an equally fraudulent foreclosure attempt by the homeowners’ association on my condo, which is occupied by a tenant.

    I have cashed checks that they are not crediting the account with. I opened a special bank account and put dues in the account when I learned they had stopped cashing my payments. They have been informed the money is there for them. But they want approximately double for false late fees, legal fees, etc. It is a never-ending nightmare.

    As I filed a rescission on the second home, it it totally fraudulent. They were required to respond in 20 days and did not. They have no standing. They must repay every penny I paid. I then pay them every thing borrowed, but no interest. The difference between what I paid and what I borrowed is approximately $120,000. The home is worth approximately $425,000 to $440,000. I did not miss any payments. They just started foreclosure and never explained the basis. I paid my own taxes and insurance. I have heard it was common for a false impound account to be set up and used as the basis. I should have grounds for a quiet title action. But the money I was saving for an attorney was stolen and I need to find a home. I am hoping to use the money from sale of condo (it is in escrow) to buy something, but it won’t be much.

    Why is it so hard to find an attorney? Are there any attorneys who would take a case like mine (on the rescission) on contingency?

    If you think you might be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, look up legal abuse syndrome. It is very real. And it is the cause of ptsd in situations like this. We should be able to recover our lost equity, damages for ptsd, punitive damages, and legal fees. Why isn’t there a groundswell of homeowners who have been fraudulently foreclosed all joining together to stand up to this?

  2. @ Maria … Help is coming, so hang in there!


  4. you know what the most depressing thing is is that it is your :”fellow american” fighting you for your property. this is the moral decay of america. It is every man/woman for them self. Look at the lawyer out there working for the bankster. WASP most of them, all white collar criminals and these are the laws of man taking place not the laws of God who we will all answer to one day! So think about that as these crooked lawyers who know well in good what they are pushing is fraudulent paperwork. YOUR Government is screwing you with their man made laws.

  5. This Fraud foreclosure is ruining my life, the feeling of worried the whole damage me and my family in a very sick feeling. No good night sleep and butterflies on my stomach every time we go to court and try to fight for our right, but seems to be never ending battle from the servicer the so called trustee Deutsche Bank and the Servicer Ocwen not to mention lawyers of the Plentif and now in appointing commissioner who is trying to sale my property without open house. Please someone stop this crazy people here in hawaii ..they dont have compassion to whom is struggling to keep our home. Please is there someone hear us here in Hawaii and help us.

  6. Hopefully one day it may be more widely understood that sometimes depression can cripple just like a physical affliction can. Great article Neil, thanks.

  7. 🚫

  8. Reblogged this on Deadly Clear.

  9. great article, thanks much.

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