Studies show home foreclosures affect health
Individuals undergoing a home foreclosure may experience mental, physical, and emotional side effects.
PHOENIX -- Increased stress levels that individuals experience during foreclosure lead to health concerns.
In a 2009 Public Library of Science Medicine study, foreclosure ranked 11th on a scale that rates the stressfulness of 43 life events. In 1967, it was number 21.
Individuals involved in a home foreclosure may feel guilty they were unable to save their home or pull themselves out of a financial crisis.
"Depression is more strongly related to stressful life events for which the individual perceives having some responsibility," the study authors said.
Psychologist Gregory Crow of Scottsdale said the sense of helplessness and mental burden of losing a home may lead to an individual's lack of confidence.
"The stress of a home foreclosure affects how a person sees himself or herself and their self esteem," Crow said.
The home foreclosure process can range from four months to several years depending on the homeowner's circumstances. This adds to the longevity of stress and anxiety.
Compromises between health and finances
Burdensome finances also may lead individuals to compromise their health and resort to unhealthy behaviors as a means of coping with the increased stress.
Individuals can be forced to choose between mounting housing-related costs and adequate health services, a 2010 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported.
"Financially stressed individuals report fewer preventive doctor visits and reduced prescription medication adherence," the PLoS Medicine study authors said.
Postponing attention to preventive health care leads to an increased possibility of more serious heath concerns arising.
A National Bureau of Economic Research study found an increase in emergency-related visits related to foreclosures. The hospitalizations and emergency room visits recorded included admissions for hypertension, diabetes, malaise or fever, abdominal pain, nausea and anxiety.
Foreclosure counseling in Phoenix
Todd Francis, the chief operating officer of Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Phoenix, said their foreclosure counseling services have nearly doubled since 2009.
NHS has been in existence for more than 35 years, but began offering personalized counseling in 2009 out of the public's growing need, he added.
NHS Phoenix's Annual Production Report showed the dramatic increase for need of financial counseling among Arizona residents.
The individual counseling services are designed to help homeowners who are about to lose their home determine the appropriate financial decisions for their circumstances.
"They accept the fact that they may lose their home, and they come to us to see if there is one last opportunity," Francis said.
Many individuals that come into NHS Phoenix are "ready to let go, restructure and rebuild," he added.
A homeowner's experience
When Kristin Minichiello made the decision to foreclose on her home in 2010, she had a similar outlook to what Francis described. She said was stressed initially because of the pressure to do the right thing, but once she accepted the foreclosure she was able to move on.
The 37-year-old sales manager consulted a lawyer to learn what the process would entail. After speaking with the lawyer, she said she had a "very clear understanding of what was going to happen."
Minichiello recommends that individuals who make the decision to foreclose seek expert advise. She said speaking with a lawyer relieved her of anxiety and took away the element of surprise.
"You can't change the situation, but you can change how you think about it," Crow said.