People aged 35-54 feeling particular concern over debt, survey shows

Research for Mabs indicates people are feeling less of a sense of shame around debt

Almost eight in 10 of those surveyed reported their household financial circumstances had worsened as a result of Covid-19. Photograph: iStock

People aged 35-54 who have debt and live in Dublin, its surrounds and other urban locations are feeling particular concern about future debt levels, according to a new online survey.

The research was conducted by Opinions Market Research on behalf of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs), which is funded and supported by the Citizens Information Board.

The research was conducted in June among a sample group of 1,007 adults in the State concerned with current or future debt and was compared with results found in October 2019 using the same methodology and sample.

Almost eight in 10 (78 per cent) of those surveyed reported that their household financial circumstances had been negatively affected by Covid-19.


Some 15 per cent of respondents said they were on reduced salary, with 17 per cent on reduced time or days working, 22 per cent having been made temporarily redundant and 8 per cent made permanently redundant.

Less than half of those affected have taken action as a result, and of those, 21 per cent have sought assistance from a friend or family member, 11 per cent have borrowed from a financial institution and 6 per cent have taken money from a moneylender.

Mortgage break

Just 11 per cent of those who have taken action have contacted a debt resolution or support agency to date.

For the under-35s and those with families, in particular, while concern with debt remains high it is not quite at the same level as it was in October 2019 (down from 83 per cent to 76 per cent). Stated reasons for this change included pre-Christmas stress in the earlier period, and a sense that pandemic supports were cushioning the true impact of their changed circumstances. There was also a feeling that “everyone has been impacted”.

The sense of shame associated with the level of debt has also fallen since October (down 7 percentage points to 49 per cent).

Michelle O'Hara, regional manager for South Leinster Mabs, said there was evidence to suggest that people "freeze in a time of crisis", indicating that the real financial impacts are yet to come.

“This will become evident with the end of the mortgage payment break this month,” Ms O’Hara said.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times