A new study published by Dartmouth and Purdue professors has found that foreclosure in the US was responsible for a significant increase in the number of suicides in the country, independent of other economic factors associated with the Great Recession.
The authors analyzed state-level foreclosure and suicide rates from 2005 to 2010. During that period, the U.S. suicide rate increased nearly 13 percent, and annual home foreclosures hit a record 2.9 million (in 2010).
The effects of foreclosures on suicides were strongest among adults 46 to 64 years old, who also experienced the highest increase in suicide rates during the recessionary period.
"Foreclosures are a unique suicide risk among the middle-aged," Houle said. "Middle-aged adults are more likely to own homes and have a higher risk of home foreclosure. They're also nearing retirement age, so losing assets at that stage in life is likely to have a profound effect on mental health and well-being."
Houle's co-author is Michael Light, assistant professor of sociology at Purdue University.
While other studies have shown links between economic cycles and suicide rates, this is the first to look specifically at foreclosures.