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Debt problems affecting 70% of UK adults

1st March 2012 Print

Over two thirds (70%) of UK adults have admitted to having debt problems with almost a third of people (29%) not prepared to confront their debt issues according to new research released today by The Co-operative Bank.

The findings also show that those in debt do not believe they have money worries until they have accumulated an average of £1,247 of debt in overdrafts, credit cards or loans.

The Co-operative Bank believes that those who are doing nothing to tackle their financial situation are suffering from the ‘DRIP syndrome' where people with debt either:

Deny that they have debt
Rationalise the reasons why they are in debt
Ignore that they have debt
Postpone putting their affairs in order

As a result, more than one in eight are turning to gambling and the lottery to get out of debt, while one in twenty people are in debt to payday lenders, with around a quarter (22%) admitting to being in debt for five years or more.

The research also shows that half the population (50%) has slipped into further debt in the past year, with the average debtor building up £325 in extra debt since Christmas alone. Reasons for the debt ‘pile up' include the rising cost of living (28%), increased energy bills (28%) and rising fuel costs (16%).

Robin Taylor, Head of Banking at The Co-operative Bank, said: "It's no surprise that people are feeling the pinch at the moment and that debts are mounting up, but what is surprising is that many people are choosing to ignore their debt and are suffering from what we have identified as DRIP Syndrome.

"Our research also shows that the ‘debt alarm' doesn't go off until people owe more than £1,000, which can be a real struggle to pay back. Managing your money with steps such as writing a list of incomings and outgoings and regularly checking your bank account will help you get on top of your finances now before problems get any worse."

The findings also show that one in three surveyed say their debt has led to a feeling of ‘debtpression'. Symptoms of ‘debtpression' include sleepless nights (60%), weight gain (25%) and anxiety attacks (30%). As a result of this a fifth (22%) now don't feel able to make any sound financial decisions, whilst 12% of people have borrowed more money to try to alleviate their symptoms.

Top 10 symptoms of ‘Deptpression'

Symptom Percentage of population with symptom

1 Sleepless nights 60%
2 Feeling tense 52%
3 Low self-esteem 50%
4 Mood swings 39%
5 Shame/ embarrassment 33%
6 Anxiety attacks 30%
7 Weight gain 25%
8 Crying 22%
9 Argumentative 20%
10 Skin problems 19%

Kim Stephenson, finance and psychology expert said: "Unfortunately, ignoring debt, while a common reaction, is probably going to make the problem worse. Confronting the problems now will start you on the road to making your finances healthier and as a result, help you break out of the spiral of debtpression and alleviate many of the physical symptoms brought on by money worries."

The Co-operative Bank has a number of solutions to help people manage their money better including a budget calculator, plus expert advice on its website and tips. It is also offering customers offering extra help to its customers by removing interest charges on agreed overdrafts until the end of March.