Sociologist Kate Cagney Publishes Study Showing Impact of Foreclosure on Depression

Zainab Imam
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A large number of foreclosures in one’s neighborhood can be an important risk factor in depression among older adults, researchers have found.

In a paper titled, "The Onset of Depression During the Great Recession: Foreclosure and Older Adult Mental Health," UChicago sociologist Kathleen Cagney and collaborators Christopher R. Browning, James Iveniuk, and Ned English examined neighborhood-level foreclosure rates and their association with onset of depressive symptoms in older adults, that is those aged over 57 years.

In the paper, which has been published in the American Journal of Public Health, the authors write that 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 eight times what it had been at the inception of the crisis, making this group a particularly interesting demographic to study with respect to foreclosure and its possible impact on depression.

Using urban sociology approaches and research on neighborhoods and mental health, the authors claimed that an increase in foreclosure rates in one’s immediate environment and the decline in housing conditions brought about by it may affect onset of depression.

A key assumption in the authors’ hypothesis is that increased number of vacant buildings, a rise in criminal activity and foreclosure, and deterioration of housing conditions may have significant consequences for mental health. These factors could lead to social withdrawal and an erosion of neighborhood life, which provides older adults an important source of social support and interaction.

“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,” the authors conclude.

The full paper is available here: