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Average indebted British adult owes over £5,500 – R3

  •    Equivalent to almost 12 weeks’ average wages
  •   4% of British adults owe over £20,000

The average in-debt British adult* owes £5,534 to their creditors (excluding mortgages and student loans), according to research by insolvency trade body R3.

This figure is equivalent to almost 12 weeks’ average weekly earnings for a UK worker (£481 per week) and seven months’ average rent in England & Wales (£770 per month).

The R3/ComRes poll of 2,000 British adults also found that 4% of British adults owe over £20,000, excluding mortgages and student loans.

Giles Frampton, R3 president, says: “The fact that the country’s average personal debt is equivalent to almost three months’ wages is a cause for concern. That’s a lot of ground to make up if debts need to be repaid quickly or if someone’s income is interrupted.”

“Personal debt levels have ballooned in the UK over the past decade. For many, being in debt has become the norm; there’s much less of a stigma attached. Where the debt is manageable, this isn’t a problem. But it can be all too easy to get caught in a debt trap, where one debt starts to create others.”

Giles Frampton adds: “Some levels of debt are extreme, but even those with relatively low value debts need to tread carefully. You only need to be unable to pay £750 to one creditor and it’s within their right to petition to have you made bankrupt.”

“If people have problems with their debts, early action is best. The more debt builds up, the fewer options there are. The 7% of adults who owe over £15,000, for example, would be ineligible for a Debt Relief Order.”

The survey also found that:

·        8% of those aged 35-44 years old owe over £20,000, the highest proportion of any age group;

·         On average, indebted 18-24 year olds owe £3,052, the lowest of any age group, while indebted 45-54 year olds owe £6,749, the highest of any age group.

·         Indebted men owe an average of £5,969, while indebted women owe an average of £5,107;

·         Amongst all British adults, including those without debts, the average debt is £3,232.

British adults, by amount of debt owed (excluding debt-free adults)

Base: All British adults who have debts (n=1,187)

Giles Frampton adds: “The insolvency profession has been campaigning for changes to the insolvency regime to make it easier for those in debt to deal with debt problems. Parts of the system need bringing up-to-date.”

“Bankruptcy can be tricky to enter because of the up-front £705 court and administration fees. These could be made payable in instalments after the bankruptcy order has been made.”

“The debt cap for Debt Relief Orders [£15,000] was first suggested in 2005. We believe it is now too low and should be raised.”

“Likewise, the value of debts for which you can be made bankrupt [£750] was set in 1986 and is now hopelessly outdated. Taking inflation into account alone, it should be closer to £2,000. Bankruptcy can be a suitable debt solution for some, but it is not appropriate for all debtors. With the ‘creditors’ bankruptcy petition threshold’ set so low, the danger is that some bankruptcy proceedings are a disproportionate response to the level of debt.”

Giles Frampton adds: “Following pressure by R3 and others, the Government called for evidence on raising the creditors’ bankruptcy petition threshold and the Debt Relief Order limits. We hope that this will not only lead to a revision of the limits but also a full review of the personal insolvency landscape.”

 Average debt owed by a British adult in debt, by age


Base: All British adults who have debts by age group (18-24 n=122, 25-34 n=232, 35-44 n=229, 45-54 n=263, 55-65 n=182, 65+ n=159)

*58% of British adults say they have debts (excluding mortgages and student loans)


  • ComRes interviewed 2,054 GB adults online between 14th and 16th November 2014. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all British adults aged 18+.
  • ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules ( This commits us to the highest standards of transparency.
  • Data tables are available on the ComRes website,

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.