Problem debt among older people is leading to huge jump in marriage breakdowns

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Older people are facing serious debt problems which are leading to twice as many marriages breaking down, new research published today reveals.

Almost a third of the 1.1m over-50s in debt are considered to be in “problem debt”, which means they are struggling to cope with their financial burden.

And the study by Age UK and the International Longevity Centre shows that older people with problem debts are twice as likely to experience marital breakdown.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director-general of Age UK, said: "There is a small group of older people who are facing the nightmare of increasingly serious debt problems which doubles their chance of their marriage breaking down and can ruin their quality of life.”

Debt can cause particular hardship for older people facing retirement or who have already stopped working. With their income shrinking, they can end up with few options to repay the money they owe.

The charity also warns that a generational effect is coming into play as those reaching retirement are more used to using credit cards and other forms of borrowing than older pensioners.

Age UK advisers have recently reported seeing more cases of older people experiencing debt problems.

People defined as having problem debt are those forced to pay up to 25 per cent of their income to meet its costs or who have non-mortgage debts of more than around £12,600.

Baroness Sally Greengross, chief executive of ILC-UK, warned: “Without further intervention, problem debt will continue to blight the lives of older people, impacting on relationships, quality of life and mental health.”

She called on the government to protect funding for debt services.