Independent Brits silently struggling with debt

2 May 2018


  • More than half of Brits with debt struggle but six in ten haven’t sought help, poll shows
  • Persistent debt levels result in embarrassment, stress, anxiety and even depression
  • Nationwide working with experts to offer support on managing debt and better budgeting

More than half of Brits with debt are struggling according to a new poll that reveals most people take on the strain themselves rather than seek help.

The Nationwide Building Society poll of more than 2,000 UK adults reveals that of those in debt, 57 per cent are experiencing debt problems and feel like they are ‘juggling’ their debts. The research was commissioned to encourage people in persistent or problematic debt to ask for help from their building society or bank as early as possible, rather than struggle alone.

Money worries can lead to emotional issues, with the research showing almost one in three (29%) feel stressed, anxious (28%), depressed (20%) and embarrassed (16%) when thinking about the debts they have. The survey also highlighted that more women experience negative feelings about their debts, with more than a third (36%) reporting feelings of stress, compared to a fifth of men (22%).

According to the survey, almost six in ten (58%) say they have never sought help with managing their debts. Among those who do seek help, just seven per cent approached their financial services provider, whereas more than a fifth asked for help from friends and family (21%).

While only a small number of Brits with debt have asked for support from their financial services provider, nearly half (45%) of all respondents stated that the responsibility for managing debt should be shared equally between lender and borrower. However, more than one in ten (12%) have used a debt counselling service in a bid to get out of the red.


Unsecured debt by popularity:
1. 62%: credit card
2. 23%: personal loan
3. 22%: overdraft
4. 17%: student loan
5. 16%: car finance
6. 15%: loan (friends/ family)
7. 12%: store card

Average total value of debt by type:
1. £20,946: student loan
2. £11,171: car finance
3. £7,117: personal loan
4. £4,911: credit card
5. £3,494: loan (friends/ family)
6. £3,303: store card
7. £2,360: overdraft

Nationwide uses a variety of third parties to support members with debt issues – aspects of the service cover debt management, referrals to free advice and accessing income through charitable grants and welfare benefits. Support with improving and developing employment skills is also offered.

Jasper Davy, Nationwide’s Head of Collections and Recoveries, said: “Dealing with debt should be a shared responsibility. As a building society, we have a duty of care to support our members both in the good times and the difficult ones. We know that because of the debt support services we offer for free there are customers who were struggling, but who are now in work, have increased their income and are thriving.

“This research serves to highlight debt issues. It’s good to see many people are coping, but it also shows there are many people who need support. Our own experience tells us that it’s rare for someone to seek pre-emptive help. Because people can be embarrassed and anxious, they view seeking professional help as a last resort only to be used in a crisis, but there’s lots of support widely available and we’d encourage anyone who is struggling to ask for help as early as possible.”

Top tips for those in debt:


  1. Don’t ignore debt – make a list of all debts and don’t forget your overdraft and cards you don’t use
  2. Create a budget – cut back on non-essential spending and use savings to pay off expensive debts
  3. Shop around for cheaper deals and check if there are ways to increase your income
  4. Talk with your creditors or a debt advice service, many of which are free, to see how they can help

Notes to Editors:

Research by Censuswide: total sample size was 2,013 UK adults. The survey ran from the 7.03.2018 to 8.03.2018

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

Please note: If you are a customer looking for information on our products and services, please visit the main website.