The subject of debt and how this can impact the lives of individuals and their families is a very controversial subject. We have seen research notes in recent times highlighting the huge impact this has right across the board especially on low income individuals and families.
It is fair to say that until you have been in that situation it is difficult to appreciate the challenges and issues that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, many people choose to “bury their head in the sand” which makes a difficult situation even more difficult. So, how does debt affect different people?
Debt and Mental Health
When you have to choose between feeding yourself or paying for electric it really does hit home how difficult it can be living with debt. The reality is that you can only juggle the plates in your life for so long before they all come crashing down. Robbing Peter to pay Paul only last for so long until eventually the debts swallow you up.
As people become more and more desperate this can have a huge impact on their working life, family life and social life. It is very easy to become withdrawn and avoid the people who can probably help and support you the most.
Once you are isolated, on your own and constantly concerned about debt and the next knock on the door, it can be difficult to avoid the slippery slope towards mental health issues.
Debt and Stress
The stresses and strains of everyday life can take their toll let alone the stress of debt which is running out of control.
There are numerous symptoms regarding stress which include: –
Debt and Anxiety
For many people the key to controlling anxiety is regular sleeping patterns.
Unfortunately, when you are stressed the first impact can be a disruption of your sleeping pattern.
The problem is that while anxiety at low levels can actually be helpful in everyday life when it starts to run out of control it can take you by surprise.
So, if you are waking in the morning after a difficult night sleep with your anxiety level higher than average then that does not bode well for the rest of the day. You are already on edge!
Debt and Mood Swings
When your mind is on other things and you are anxious, mood swings can emerge at the drop of a hat.
One minute you can be concentrating on something relatively upbeat and then all of a sudden your mood changes. You can become irritable and restless, and many people will show signs of anger.
This can lead to difficult relationships with your friends and family and sometimes push those you need close by even further away.
Debt and Problems With Memory/Concentration
It is perfectly understandable that when you have issues such as debt on your mind 24/7 you will lack concentration and very often your memory will suffer.
In an anxious and stressful state this can make you doubt your own judgement and place even more stress on you.
Some of those struggling to cope with debt problems have mentioned the feeling of “losing their minds”.
Debt and Difficulty Sleeping
As mentioned above, the key to remaining focused, concentrated and refreshed is your sleep. Yes, we appreciate some people can “survive” on just a few hours of sleep a night but these individuals are few and far between.
The best way to control anxiety is regular sleeping patterns and even if you don’t end up sleeping, resting can be just as helpful.
Debt and Making Wrong Decisions
When you are refreshed, focused and have nothing major on your mind, it can be very simple to make the right decisions right across-the-board.
When you are stressed, unfocused and maybe you haven’t slept your full quota of eight hours it can be difficult to make decisions.
The problem is as you make wrong decisions you create more anxiety and place more pressure on yourself which very quickly becomes a vicious circle.
Debt and Depression
While depression is something which the vast majority of us will experience at some time in our life, those concerned about their out-of-control finances are more susceptible to depression than others.
Indeed, many have been known to slip into a deep depression which it can be difficult to re-emerge from.
Some of the more common symptoms of depression include:-
Debt and Change in Appetite/Weight
This symptom of depression can go either way; some people will eat more food and put on significant weight. On the flip side, some of those suffering from depression will effectively starve themselves, lose weight and start to look very ill.
Either way, this is one of the tell-tale signs of depression.
Debt and Hopeless Outlook
Such is the power and control of depression that once sprightly and out looking individuals can become very withdrawn and take a very downbeat view of their future.
Very often they will keep their debt problems to themselves, so as people look at them they have no idea what is going on behind-the-scenes.
A hopeless outlook on life can take away any enjoyment and hopes for the future – proving very difficult to reverse.
Debt and Loss of Interest
Those who are suffering from depression will often lose interest in some of their more passionate endeavours/hobbies. The tell-tale signs may be something as simple as not taking the dog for a walk like they used to.
Perhaps there are not spending as much time with their children as they have done in the past?
Debt and Inability to Control Emotions
Those who are suffering from any form of mental illness such as depression often find it difficult to control their emotions. They may laugh uncontrollably for no reason or more likely burst into tears at the slightest thing.
When in their depressed state they are literally unable to control their emotions.
Debt and Family Breakups
Unfortunately, many of those who are suffering individual debt issues may prefer to keep it to themselves rather than share with their partner and family.
On occasion, this can lead to family breakups and long-term fallouts which place yet more pressure on the individual which can often become too much.
When suffering debt issues it literally is the case of a problem shared is a problem halved especially when it comes to your nearest and dearest, friends and family.
Some of the more tell-tale signs ahead of family troubles include: –
- The individual becomes withdrawn and isolated
- They find it difficult to interact
- Refuse to socialise with friends
- Even getting themselves out of bed can be a challenge
- An unkempt and untidy look
- Denial that anything is wrong
- Individuals can become very secretive
In many cases the individual will often be trying to shield their partner and family from their financial troubles but obviously third parties cannot see this.
So, what can sometimes start as a relatively innocuous argument can lead to abusive and sometimes physical interactions and worse.
For many, there is a point of no return and unfortunately, this can lead to long-term family separations.
Debt and Substance Abuse
There is a very strong link between substance abuse, whether this is alcohol or drugs, and mental health issues/debt concerns. Some of those who have been through such difficulties have described the way in which alcohol/drug abuse allows them to “escape their troubles” for just use a short space of time.
Alcohol and drugs do not mix when you are “in a bad place” and can very often lead to the individuals saying and doing things they would never have dreamed of normally.
There’s also the issue of how they pay for various substances especially when you bear in mind the root of their changing behaviour can be traced back to debt concerns.
The reality is that many of those suffering from stressful situations relating to debt will get themselves into even greater debt via substance abuse.
This very rarely ends well!
Debt and Turning to Crime
It is also fairly common to see individuals struggling with debt issues turn to a life of often petty crime which can then lead to more serious offences.
When you are quite literally faced with the issue of having no food to feed yourself or your family, the stress and strain can push people to the limit.
The potential consequences of stepping over this line can be extremely serious going forward and make it difficult for some people to go back to their previous character.
In some cases, turning to a life of crime and actually being found out can rather bizarrely lead to the help they so obviously required.
There are numerous debt management solutions available today many of which will allow those struggling to draw a line under their historic financial issues and “start again”.
Turning to petty crime is for many people a cry for help.
Debt and Losing Your Home
While for the majority of mortgage lenders repossession is a last resort, this is not always the case. When somebody is struggling under a mountain of debt they may well start to fall behind on relatively small financial obligations and then things become worse.
The mental anxiety can lead to time off work, reduced income and eventually lead to missed mortgage payments and difficulties with their mortgage lender.
The vast majority of homeowners in the UK would be unable to secure funding of anywhere over 70% of the value of a property.
This means that mortgage lenders, who will hold a charge over your property, have relatively spacious headroom above what they are owed and the value of the property.
In a worst-case scenario, they would sell your property, forcing you to move out of your home, pay off mortgage arrears and then return any surplus to the individual.
In light of the 2008 US mortgage crisis, we saw an increase in repossessions and this is likely to happen again in light of the 2020 coronavirus crisis.
If someone is thinking clearly there are ways and means of addressing these issues in a more structured and a relatively controlled manner.
Something as simple as a short-term mortgage holiday, downsizing your property or rearranging your finances can make a huge difference.
The key is to take back control and not wait for your creditors to knock on your door.
Repossession Statistics 2007 to 2019
Debt & Losing Your Dignity/Stigma
As the cost of living continues to rise and wages remain relatively flat the vast majority of homes up and down the country will to varying degrees experience financial issues.
It may be something as simple as “swallowing your pride” which allows you to address these issues sooner rather than later and avoid much of the mental anguish. That said, many people admitting they are in financial trouble is akin to losing their dignity and in their mind may have a terrible stigma attached.
Despite the fact that there are ways and means of mitigating any debt issues, there is still a stigma attached to the likes of bankruptcy and other debt management options.
Of course, the main problem is that stubbornness from the struggling individuals/families is ultimately futile because their debt issues will come to a head at some point.
So the best thing to do would be to bite the bullet in the early days. The reality is that many people have been in similar situations and lived to fight another day and indeed prosper.
They have reorganised their finances, learnt their lessons and then ploughed on with their new life. Much of the supposed loss of dignity and stigma can be in the individual’s own mind.
Debt Is Slavery
In the words of the famous billionaire and philanthropist J Paul Getty:-
“If you owe the bank $100 that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.”
This perfectly illustrates the challenges faced by many people in the UK today.
Once you have agreed a relatively large overdraft with your bank, and become dependent on that finance, you could effectively be forced to stay with the bank for years to come.
You may also have a credit card and other loan facilities, therefore, making you in the eyes of many a “slave to debt” or literally a slave to your bank.
In the UK we have seen some fluctuations in the level of homeownership in recent years but many people do feel pressured to buy their own property.
When you consider that the average UK property is priced at well over £200,000, this is a huge level of debt to take on.
Yes, there may be opportunities to take advantage of house price rises but you will always need somewhere to live.
As a consequence, with the average mortgage term around 20 years, it is not inconceivable that you could be tied to the same financial institutions for decades.
How Many People Die Per Year Over Debts?
There is no doubt there is and always has been a relatively strong link between debt problems, thoughts of suicide and actual suicide. As you will see from the table below, a staggering 420,000 people a year in England consider ending their lives as a consequence of debt problems.
We also know there is very strong evidence to suggest that economic recessions lead to greater debt issues and as a consequence spikes in death rates.
This report was carried out by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute which has been highlighting the link between debt and mental health issues for some time.
The link between suicide and debt problems
|7% of the UK adult population have a debt problem||3% of those in problem debt in England have attempted suicide over the last 12 months, which equates to 100,000 people|
|Those in debt are three times more likely to have considered suicide in the last 12 months||25% of those who attempted suicide in the last 12 months had debt problems|
|Over the last 12 months 420,000 people in England have considered suicide as a consequence of their debt problems (13% of those with debt problems)||Those with multiple debt issues are at significantly greater risk of considering and attempting suicide|
|The double stigma surrounding mental health problems and suicide can often mean those struggling are scared to open up and ask for assistance||Only 1% of those with no problem debt/one problem debt attempted suicide in the last 12 months compared to 5% of those with two, three or more problem debts|
There is no doubt that the UK government has been listening to issues regarding mental health and debt problems and we have seen significant investment in support services.
Indeed a further report by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has specifically highlighted the type of service that those struggling with debt issues would appreciate.
This information is summarised in the following table: –
|Information/Support about money that people would find helpful||% Suport|
|Advice on managing thoughts and feelings about money||75%|
|Information about mental health, treatment and the link to money issues||70%|
|Support about mental health and the impact of work/claiming benefits||68%|
|Information and tools help manage money more efficiently||62%|
|Information on where to find money advice||48%|
|Information about protecting individuals from financial abuse/exploitation||48%|
|None of the above||1%|
As you can see from the above feedback it would appear that many consumers are crying out for assistance with regards to managing their money and controlling their budgets.
Despite the millions upon millions of pounds already poured into the mental health system, there is still a stigma attached to those experiencing financial difficulties.
While it would appear that many are struggling in silence, there is a growing number requesting support, information and further assistance.
The introduction of the Internet has made a huge difference to those seeking support as they can do this online, in their own time and in private.
There Are Schemes to Help Manage Debt
The irony for those suffering debt problems in silence is the fact there are numerous schemes to consider which can in some cases write off problem debt and allow the individual to start again.
Some of the debt management schemes available in the UK include: –
- Debt management plan
- Debt relief order
- Individual voluntary arrangement
- Offer in full or final settlement
- Debt write-off
- Administration order
It will depend upon an individual’s specific circumstances as to which type of debt management scheme would be more relevant. For example, those with significant debts but regular income may look towards a debt management plan while those with minimal income but unmanageable debt may be eligible for a debt relief order where debt repayments are frozen for 12 months then written off.
The reality is that whatever type/level of debt you find yourself in there are ways and means of managing this and the sooner you address your debts head-on the better.
When you see the number of people who consider suicide each year, and those who actually commit suicide, as a consequence of debt problems it is a stark reminder to all of us.
The reality is that no matter what type of debt you find yourself in, what level and however difficult the future looks, there are ways and means of addressing this.
There are numerous stages to addressing debt issues which include: –
- Admitting you have a debt problem
- Clarifying your debt burden
- Consider income and outgoings
- Take professional advice
- Consider the relevant options
- Take action
Assisting those with problem debt is as much about education as it is about addressing their issues – so they don’t make the same mistakes again. Many people still believe that debt management plans will effectively take all of their assets and leave them with nothing.
The truth is that all of these arrangements supporting those in out-of-control debt have one long-term goal, which is to place the individual on a stronger financial footing going forward whether through reduced repayments or debt write-offs.
It is also in the best interests of the state and the individual to help them maintain employment status where possible.
This has the benefit of maintaining an income stream, reducing dependence on the state and also giving people back a degree of dignity that many believe they have lost.
In summary, giving them hope………….
How Can Love Debt Free Help?
Here at Love Debt Free, we have partnered with some of the UK’s leading Debt help companies.
They have already helped thousands of people reduce and manage their debts, and they can do the same for you.
Choosing an independent adviser means they won’t recommend a scheme unless they are sure it is in your best interests. Their advice is also regulated by the FCA, which gives you an additional layer of protection.
If you would like to speak to one of these debt help companies, click on the below and answer the questions.