Evictions Associated with Depression, Higher Stress, and Worse Health

An article in Social Science & Medicine, The health impacts of eviction: Evidence from the national longitudinal study of adolescent to adult health,” finds robust evidence of an association between evictions and a greater likelihood of depression among young adults. Increased levels of stress among those who had experienced eviction explained nearly 20% of this effect, indicating that eviction can be a significant stressor in early adulthood. Likewise, individuals who experienced an eviction had worse self-rated health than those without an eviction.

The authors analyze nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. This study collected data at four time points between 1994 and 2008 from individuals who were adolescents in grades 7 through 12 in 1994-1995. The survey asked respondents about their health status and in later stages asked whether they experienced an eviction in the past 12 months. The researchers assessed the effect of eviction during the third and fourth survey period on two measures of health for 5,934 participants. The first measure tracked whether respondents had a number of depressive symptoms (e.g., being bothered, too tired to enjoy things, unable to shake the blues, feeling not as good as others, or not enjoying life). The second measure was self-reported health—whether respondents thought their own health was excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor.

Overall, roughly 1.6% of young adults in the survey reported experiencing eviction. Compared to those who did not report eviction, they had higher levels of depressive symptoms and worse self-rated health. There were racial and economic disparities in who experienced eviction. While Black young people accounted for 12% of the full sample, they accounted for 23% of the people experiencing eviction. Young adults with lower socioeconomic status were more likely to report eviction.

In order to isolate the relationship between eviction and health, since factors that make eviction more likely can also be detrimental to health, the authors constructed several models that control for gender, race and ethnicity, family socioeconomic status, and neighborhood socioeconomic conditions. Taking these factors into account, they still found a strong association between eviction and depressive symptoms. A complementary analysis found that those who had experienced eviction were likely to have a greater number of depressive symptoms than those who had experienced eviction. There was also a strong positive association between having been evicted and poor or fair self-rated health.

Their analysis found that stress mediates the association between eviction and depressive symptoms: higher stress caused by eviction itself increases depressive risk and poor mental health. To assess levels of perceived social stress, respondents were asked whether they felt in control, capable of handling personal problems, or able to overcome accumulating difficulties. Approximately 17.5% of the total effect of eviction history on depressive symptoms operated indirectly through perceived stress. The authors note that a larger literature shows the serious long-term health risks of high stress, which might indicate further harms of eviction beyond what can be measured in this survey.

See Memo, 10/26/2020, for another study that uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health.