'Debt advice saved my life'

11 August 2014, 12:31   By Julia Kukiewicz

FACE to face debt advice can have a dramatic effect on wellbeing, research released by the Money Advice Service today reveals.

debt help
Credit: Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Shutterstock.com

"This sounds very strong but I do believe [debt advisors] kind of saved my life," one respondent told researchers.

"They didn't save my marriage, which came hand in hand with the debts, but I do think they saved my life, because I was on the edge when I contacted them."

This sounds very strong but I do believe they kind of saved my life... I was on the edge when I contacted them.

71% of the 1,380 debt advice clients interviewed for the report said they were feeling less stressed after having received debt advice.

67% said they were sleeping better and similarly high proportions reported other indicators of better well being, like more confidence in dealing with creditors.

"I am in a much better position and feeling a lot better with less stress," another respondent said.

wellbeing after debt advice

SOURCE: The Money Advice Service Debt Advice Review 2013/14.

Linking health and debt

About half of the respondents to the survey, 52%, considered themselves to have a mental health problem and almost all suffered loss of wellbeing because of their debt.

In most cases the respondents with a diagnosed mental health problem didn't seem to think that those problems had sparked their debt, only about 20% said their debt followed a period of sickness or disability.

But, the researchers found, those with mental health conditions were more likely to come to a debt advice service facing serious problems.

life events preceding debt

SOURCE: The Money Advice Service Debt Advice Review 2013/14.

39% of those with mental health problems had received a court summons for a debt, contrasted with 29% among those without. They were also more likely to have had a telephone landline or mobile phone service cut off.

They were also more likely to fall back into debt after they received help.

39% of clients with mental health conditions had built up further debt, including borrowing from family and friends, after getting help, compared to 26% for those without diagnosed mental health issues.

Debt advice works

Citizens Advice, which received about 35% of its national funding from the Money Advice Service in 2012/3, welcomed today's research as proof that debt advice really works.

I am in a much better position and feeling a lot better with less stress.

Over 90% of the respondents to today's survey got their advice face to face at a Citizens Advice bureau or a similar project.

"If anyone is struggling to pay their bills or feels stressed about their financial situation, they should seek advice immediately," Caroline Siarkiewicz, Head of UK Debt Advice Programme at the Money Advice Service said.

"Advice can help you get on top of your debts, and feel better about managing your money."

Debt and physical health

The relationship between debt and health remains complex, however.

A US study released this week found that graduates with high amounts of student loan debt, much more like a commercial loans than UK student loans, were much less likely to be thriving physically than their counterparts without loans.

More on debt

A study from last year also found a strong link between debt and poor physical health.

The paper, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, studied about 8,000 young adults and found that with higher levels of debt had higher diastolic blood pressure.

The increase was 1.3% on average and higher for those with higher debts.

When diastolic blood pressure increases 2% about the mean it increased the likelihood of hypertension by 17% and the risk of stroke by 15%.

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