One in ten women have £10,000 or more in debts

8th March 2016

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Women are relying on credit to fund their lives, leaving many vulnerable to a cycle of debt, and mental and physical health problems, according to a new report.

The study, by a debt management company, examined the attitudes to debt and spending of 2,500 women, found that 1 in 10 women has at least £10,000 of debt. On average, women now have £4,235 of unsecured credit, with the highest levels of debt among those under 45.

What’s more, figures suggest a fivefold increase in the proportion of young females seeking help with problem debt. In January 2016, 11 percent of those who approached the company for help with debt problems were women aged 18-24, compared with just 2 percent in January 2013. Of those women seeking advice in January 2016, 80 percent owed over £5,000 to their creditors, up from 67 percent from the same period of 2013.

Credit cards are by far the most popular way for women to borrow money, with over half of women saying they have at least one credit card. The biggest reason women use a credit card is to pay for housing, utility bills or food shopping, with a quarter of those asked relying on credit cards to cover everyday living costs.

A further 14 percent have a store card and a similar number pay by instalments when shopping from catalogues. Around 10 percent of women take cash advances on their credit cards when their regular income runs low.

Alarmingly, almost 80 percent of women with debt say it has had a negative impact on their lives. Two-thirds said their physical and mental health has suffered because of debt stress. Women also report that debt worries have impacted their relationship with their family and friends or has stopped them from getting a job because of a poor credit history.

Melanie Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Debt Advisory Service *, says: “Debt has become a way of life for many women. They are more in control of their lives than they’ve ever been – they are typically financially independent for longer and earn more – but they are also borrowing more, either to fund a lifestyle or to keep a roof over their head.”

Taylor explains that for a growing number of women who are using credit to fund their lives, making debt repayments has become unmanageable.

“Typically having lower pay than men, being more likely to take time away from work to care for families, and unexpected life events such as relationship breakdowns or redundancy, is impacting women’s ability to successfully manage money,” she says.

Anyone who feels that they are being overwhelmed by their debt should seek advice as soon as possible.

“While problem debt can feel like a life sentence, it isn’t – with the right advice and support, people can draw a line under their debts and make a fresh start financially.”

*The Debt Advisory Service is a commercial organisation, not a charity and has no links with the Government-run Money Advice Service. To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit the government-run Money Advice Service (www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk), an independent service set up to help people manage their money. While Debt Advice Foundation (www.debtadvicefoundation.org or 0800 622 61 51) and StepChange Debt Charity (www.stepchange.org or 0800 138 1111) can offer free, confidential support and advice to anyone worried about debt.

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