Stigma Associated with Mortgage Strain May Affect Physical and Mental Health

Stigma Associated with Mortgage Strain May Affect Physical and Mental Health
Danya Keene, Sarah Cowan, Amy Castro Baker
American Journal of Public Health
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Stigma may exacerbate stress associated with mortgage strain and contribute to poor mental and physical health, according to Danya Keene and her colleagues in the American Journal of Public Health. The authors conducted 28 semistructured interviews between March 2012 and May 2013 with African American homeowners in a Northeastern city who had missed mortgage payments or were having difficulty paying them. Stigma emerged as a prominent theme in these interviews. The authors examined the transcripts of their interviews, looking for commonalities related to stigma, sharing information, social support, social isolation, and the meaning of homeownership. They found that mortgage strain endangered the dignity of the interviewees, many of whom were upwardly mobile, moving from poorer neighborhoods or being the first in their family to own a home. Additionally, the authors found that efforts to conceal mortgage troubles contributed to isolation among participants, serving as a barrier to support and potentially exacerbating experiences of depression prevalent in the sample.

Key findings

  • Feelings of shame because of mortgage strain led many to conceal the stigma associated with these financial struggles, causing social isolation and likely contributing to depression and anxiety among participants.
  • Almost half the interviewees met the diagnostic criteria for depression, based on the two-question Physician Health Questionnaire.
  • This stigma was a barrier to clinical intervention for some interviewees.