Outstanding personal debt stood at £1.415 trillion (including mortgages) at the end of September 2012, up from £1.406 trillion at the end of September 2011 according to Credit Action. And this debt is having a damaging impact on people’s work and home lives, family relationships and health.
Over 1,700 people experiencing debt problems completed the online survey which ran from 18 September to 26 November 2012. Most owed between £1,000 and £20,000 but around 1 in 10 owed more than £30,000.
Around half of all respondents in employment and struggling with debt said their work performance was suffering (51%). Of these, 1 in 2 are finding it hard to concentrate at work (54%), while more than 1 in 3 (36%) are finding it difficult to do their jobs well.
Well over half (56%) said worry about debt was affecting their relationships. Of these, more than 1 in 2 (57%) said debt was causing problems with their partner and 1 in 3 (33%) said it was causing problems in their relationship with their children.
Nearly 3 in 4 (74%) said debt worries were having an impact on their mental health, while more than 1 in 2 (54%) said their physical health was affected. Of those having health problems, just over half had experienced a panic or anxiety attack (51%). Almost 4 out of every 5 (79%) said they were losing sleep most nights because of debt.
Around 1 in 4 people in debt are trying to take their minds off their money worries by drinking (29%), eating (24%) and smoking (29%). Nearly 2 in 5 (38%) were taking no action to tackle their debts and hoping the problem would go away.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "We are seeing a debt epidemic in the UK which is affecting people from all walks of life.
"Our advisers deal with nearly 8,000 new debt problems every working day so we know debt can play a strong part in relationship breakdowns, ill-health and problems at work. It's easy to understand why so many people try to ignore debt problems hoping they will go away, but that's not the answer.
“Getting free, confidential, expert advice can make all the difference between getting on top of financial problems or seeing debts spiral out of control."