One of the greatest effects of the financial crisis in Spain has been the enormous increase in the number of evictions. Several studies have shown the association of evictions with different aspects of the physical and mental health. Furthermore, evictions have been associated with an increased risk of suicide. Our objective was to evaluate the risk of suicide among victims of eviction and investigate whether it is associated with specific characteristics of households and interviewees, the eviction process and social support, and health needs.
A total of 205 participants from households threatened with eviction in Granada, Spain, and 673 being the total number of members of these households, were interviewed in one-on-one sessions between April 2013 and May 2014. Through a questionnaire, information was obtained on physical and mental health, characteristics of their eviction process and support networks, and the use of health services.
Almost half of the sample (46.7%) were at low (11.8%), moderate (16.9%), or high suicide risk (17.9%). Household and interviewee features had a limited association with suicide risk. On the contrary, the risk of suicide is greater with a longer exposure to the eviction process. In addition, threatening phone calls from banks increased significantly the risk of suicide, especially among men. Suicide risk was also associated with low social support, especially among women. Interviewees at risk of suicide received more help from nongovernmental organizations than those who were not at risk. In interviewees at risk, the main unmet needs were emotional and psychological help, especially in men. A high percentage of those at risk of suicide declare having large unmeet health needs. Finally, there was a tendency among the evicted at risk of suicide to visit emergency room and primary care more often than those not at risk, especially among women.
To our knowledge, this is the first study showing that when banks adopt a threatening attitude, suicide risk increases among the evicted. As hypothesized, when the evicted felt socially supported, suicide risk decreased. Emotional help was the main mediator of suicide risk and the main unmet need, especially among men.