"When you're in a crisis like that, you don't want people to know": Mortgage strain, stigma, and mental health

Danya E. Keene, Sarah K. Cowan, Amy Castro Baker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Objectives: We analyzed experiences of stigmatization, concealment, and isolation among African American homeowners who were experiencing mortgage strain. Methods: We conducted semistructured interviews between March 2012 and May 2013 with 28 African American homeowners in a northeastern US city who were experiencing mortgage strain. We coded all of the transcripts and reviewed data for codes relating to stigma, sharing information, social support, social isolation, and the meaning of homeownership. Results: Our data showed that mortgage strain can be a concealable stigma. Participants internalized this stigma, expressing shame about their mortgage situation. Additionally, some participants anticipated that others would view them as less worthy given their mortgage trouble. In an effort to avoid stigmatization, many concealed their mortgage trouble, which often led to isolation. This stigmatization, concealment, and isolation seemed to contribute to participants' depression, anxiety, and emotional distress. Conclusions: Stigma may exacerbate stress associated with mortgage strain and contribute to poor mental health, particularly among upwardly mobile African Americans who have overcome significant structural barriers to home ownership. Reducing stigma associated with mortgage strain may help to reduce the health consequences of this stressful life event.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1008-1012
    Number of pages5
    JournalAmerican journal of public health
    Issue number5
    StatePublished - May 1 2015

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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