Majority of people in debt suffer mentally as a result, survey shows

Citizens Advice urged people struggling with debt and their mental health to seek help.

The majority of people who are in debt said it negatively impacted their mental health, as Citizens Advice Scotland urged people to seek help.

YouGov research found that around 782,528 people – around 17% of the population – entered debt or found it was “exacerbated” due to the cost-of-living crisis, in a survey of 1,005 adults before Christmas.

Of those, around 665,148 cited debt as impacting their mental health, according to new figures from Citizens Advice Scotland, which described the pressure as “suffocating”.

The connection between debt and poor mental health was described as a “vicious cycle” by Alex Cumming, executive director of Scottish Action for Mental Health (SAMH).

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is launching “Stressed about Debt?” on Monday, encouraging people who are worried about their bills or debt to seek professional advice.

Options include online self-help tools, online advice pages or one-to-one advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), a free service that helps improve people’s financial situation.

Since last spring, CABs have helped write off over £11m worth of debt, with the average amount written off being over £12,600 per client.

CAS financial health spokesperson Sarah Jayne Dunn said: “There is a clear link between money and mental health and that will have been exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis.

“Hundreds of thousands of people across the country, through no fault of their own have fallen behind on bills and find themselves in debt.

“Some people will be in debt for the first time, others will have seen their existing debt get worse.

“There’s no shame in having debt, and it’s completely understandable to be stressed and anxious about it. For many people, debt is something they ignore until it builds up and becomes overwhelming.

“That’s why we’ve launched the Stressed about Debt campaign, to encourage people who are worried to seek advice and not let those worries build up until they are suffocating.

“You don’t need to go to a CAB to get advice, instead you can check our online advice pages or use our interactive self-help tools.

“Our network gets real results for people – last year people who saw a gain having sought advice were more than £3,700 better off.

“Our advice is impartial, confidential, and crucially, free. We don’t charge for our advice, and we never will.”

Scottish Government Housing Minister Paul McLennan MSP said: “I welcome this important and timely campaign from Citizens Advice Scotland. Advice services play a critical role in helping people to navigate the current cost crisis and to access the support and information they need.

“The cost-of-living crisis is putting a huge strain on households, which is why the Scottish Government is doing all it can to deliver support. This year we will invest over £12.5m in a range of advice services providing free income maximisation, welfare and debt advice.

“This includes more than £4.45m to Citizens Advice Scotland and the network of Bureaux for the Money Talk Team, which offers free confidential and holistic advice. Access to free, confidential and impartial advice through the CAB network, either online or in person, can make a massive difference.”

Alex Cumming, executive director of Operations at SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health), said: “Poor mental health can be a factor in building up debt, and debt can result in mental health problems, including stress and anxiety. Debt and mental health problems often form a vicious circle, and it’s important to seek help for both.

“At SAMH, we hear time and again from the people we support, including those who contact our information service, that they are experiencing issues with money at the same time as needing help with their mental health.

“We welcome Citizens Advice Scotland’s campaign and encourage anyone who is stressed about debt to take that first step towards getting the support they need.”

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