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One in six adults struggling with debt worries

10th March 2016 Print

A major study, based on a model developed by the Money Advice Service and CACI, estimates the levels of over-indebtedness in the UK. For the first time, the model gives every UK adult a statistical likelihood of being over-indebted, based on a number of factors and characteristics – including tenancy, age, household make up and income. This data gives a picture of ‘over-indebtedness’, indicating where people have either fallen behind with their bills in at least three of the last six months or feel that their debts are a heavy burden.

The findings reveal that renting a property indicates that you are twice as likely to be over-indebted as those owning their home (25% versus 12%). Around 16 million people in the UK rent their home with one in four (4.1 million) of them living with debt problems. For those renting a social housing property this likelihood increases to nearly one in three (29% versus 21% privately renting).

Young adults aged 25-34 are the age group most likely to be living with a debt problem. Among 25-34 year olds, one in four live with debt problems (2.1 million) – the highest likelihood of all the age bands. The research shows that the likelihood of debt problems peaks at this age, and doesn’t begin to fall significantly until the 55-64 age band.

While having children increases the probability of debt problems by more than 50%, the analysis suggests that there is a particularly strong relationship between debt and having three or more children. Whilst 19% of adults with one or two children are over-indebted, this rises to 26% among adults with three or more children.

At the same time, it is estimated that one in four (28% or 1 million) single parents in the UK are living with problem debt. This is almost twice the national average, and one and a half times more likely than two parent families.

Caroline Siarkiewicz, Head of Debt Advice at the Money Advice Service said: “This research breaks new ground, providing us with the most up to date look at levels of problem debt across the UK. We estimate that 8.2 million UK adults suffer with financial worries — with younger adults, larger families and single parents noticeably at higher risk.

“We are working with our delivery partners to ensure that debt advice is easy to access across the UK, especially in more vulnerable areas such as Wales and Northern Ireland — but for this to really have the greatest impact, we need to make sure those who need support are aware that this help is available. 

“We know that debt advice works but currently, only one in five people with financial difficulties seek advice. Today we are calling on everyone with problem debt or money worries, no matter how large or small, to access free advice as soon as possible.”

People who would like help to get their finances back on track can use the Debt Advice Locator Tool to find free, impartial help in their area -