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Debt denial’ rife as 1 in 3 struggling debtors hide problem from their families

Almost a third (30%) of people struggling with their debts (without seeking help) have not even spoken to their partner or family about their financial distress, finds research released today by insolvency trade body R3.

The research, focusing on the experiences of 1,193 people who are struggling with their debts but haven’t contacted anyone for help shows that:

  • A third (30%) haven’t spoken to their partner or family about their debts;
  • One in five (19%) don’t open their bills because they can’t face them;
  • A quarter (23%) avoid contact with the those they owe money to.

R3 President Peter Sargent commented: “The tragic reality is that ‘debt denial’ is still rife. But hoping the problem will disappear just makes things worse in the long run. Debts mount up, creditors get more frustrated and ‘rescue’ options become more limited. It might seem hard to do, but facing up to the situation and seeking professional advice as soon as possible is the best way forward.

“Insolvency practitioners see the appalling effect that burden of excessive debt can have on individuals and their families. The sooner an individual seeks advice, the sooner they can get back on the financial straight and narrow.”

Recent R3 research showed that 4 million people (3,989,272) went into debt to pay for Christmas, over 6 million people (6,483,567) said they wouldn’t have enough money to pay their bills due to their Christmas spending, and 3 million people (2,991,954) admitted they were still paying off debts from Christmas 2008.

Notes to editors:

Methodology note - ComRes surveyed 1,961 members of the public who describe themselves as struggling with debt by online questionnaire between 17 December 2009 and 7 January 2010. Of this sample, 1,193 individuals say they are struggling with their debts but haven’t contacted anyone for help. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules Full data tables are available at

The research shows that:

Debt denial:

  • A third (30%) say they have not spoken to their partner or family about their debts (7% say they are not in touch with their family or do not have a partner);
  • One in five (19%) say they do not open their bills because they cannot face them;
  • A quarter (23%) say they are trying to avoid contact with the people they owe money to.

Christmas spending:

  • GfK NOP interviewed 1000 adults 16+ in the UK between the 11 to 13 December 2009. Data has been weighted to bring it in line with national profiles. Full tables are available on request, but the key findings are:
  • 8% of people say they have borrowed money (either from a bank, friends or family or other lender) to pay for Christmas;
  • 6% say they’re still paying off the money they borrowed from last Christmas (2008);
  • 13% of people say they do not think they’ll have enough money left over, after paying for Christmas to comfortably pay their bills.

ONS population data shows there are 49,865,000 people aged 16 and over in the UK. Using this, we can approximate that:

  • 3,989,272 people have borrowed money to pay for Christmas;
  • 6,483,567 people won’t have enough money to pay their bills due to their Christmas spending; and
  • 2,991,954 people are still paying off debts from Christmas last year.

R3 Press Office

Notes to editors:

  • R3 is the trade body for Insolvency Professionals and represents the UK’s Insolvency Practitioners.

  • R3 comments on a wide variety of personal and corporate insolvency issues. Contact the press office, or see for further information.

  • R3 promotes best practice for professionals working with financially troubled individuals and businesses; all R3 members are regulated by recognised professional bodies
  • R3 stands for 'Rescue, Recovery, and Renewal' and is also known as the Association of Business Recovery Professionals.