12.8 million UK adults weighed down by debt

Number of 'over-indebted' UK adults bar chart.

October 2017 - 7.7 million
October 2020 - 8.5 million
May 2022 - 9.6 millions
January 2023 - 12.8 million

New analysis by Debt Justice has found that the number of households struggling under a heavy debt burden has increased by two thirds since 2017.

Based on the Financial Conduct Authority’s Financial Lives survey, they calculate that 12.8 million adults in the UK are falling behind on bills or finding their repayments a heavy burden.

A lack of suitable options to reset finances can mean people in debt are weighed down for years, forced to go without essentials and vulnerable to exploitative companies selling unsuitable fee paying ‘solutions’ such as IVAs.

The buildup of unpayable debt will weigh down households, acting as a drag on the economy for years to come unless the government recognise the severity of the household debt crisis and moves decisively to ease the burden.

Sadia*, a 47-year-old community worker from east London said:

“My health started deteriorating and I had to have a major operation. Afterwards I needed time off work to recuperate, so my pay went down even further. My debt started spiraling and eventually it reached £15,000.”

“I felt the shame and stigma. I wondered whether people were going to think that I’m careless with my money. I’ve never had money troubles, so I kept it quiet for a long time. I took out credit cards and loans, I tried everything possible to pay off the debt that was building up.”

“After sharing my story and campaigning alongside other people that have been pushed into debt, I now know that I was put in an impossible situation, and it wasn’t my fault. Many people are now being pushed into debt, I want to tell them that they are not alone, and help is out there.”

Heidi Chow, Executive Director of Debt Justice said:

“The government is turning a blind eye to the colossal household debt crisis that is engulfing millions of people at breakneck speed. Instead of ignoring the problem they need to raise incomes, boost the protections for people in arrears and write off the unpayable debts to give everyone that needs it a fresh start.”

For more information and follow up contact Joe Cox on 07796884487


Debt Justice (formerly Jubilee Debt Campaign) is a campaigning organisation working to end unjust debt and the poverty and inequality it perpetuates, in the UK and across the world https://debtjustice.org.uk/

*Name changed to protect anonymity

Answered yes to the following (million)Oct-17Oct-20May-22Jan-23
Are you falling behind on bills/credit commitments?4.25.6
Are you finding your bills/credit commitments a heavy financial burden?7.810.9
Overlap, removed to prevent double counting2.43.7
Total (million)
% change since previous survey10.4%12.9%33.3%
% change since original survey10.4%24.7%66.2%

FCA (2017). Understanding the financial lives of UK adults Findings from the FCA’s Financial Lives. p.140. Available at: https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/research/financial-lives-survey-2017.pdf

FCA (2021). Financial Lives 2020 survey: the impact of coronavirus. p.106. Available at: https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/research/financial-lives-survey-2020.pdf

FCA (2022). Financial Lives 2022 survey: insights on vulnerability and financial resilience relevant to the rising cost of living. FCA. Available at: https://www.fca.org.uk/data/financial-lives-2022-early-survey-insights-vulnerability-financial-resilience. With further data supplied by the FCA press office.

FCA (2023). Help is available for those who need it, says FCA. Available at: https://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/help-available-those-who-need-it With further data supplied by the FCA press office.

TBIJ: Predatory businesses profit off personal debts: A murky world of middlemen is pushing people towards IVAs, a debt solution that can leave some worse off https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2023-03-20/predatory-businesses-profit-off-personal-debts

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