Nearly nine million people in the UK have serious debt problems, with more than four out of five of those not seeking advice to cope with their debt.
As many as 45% of them admit to have been struggling to pay their bills for more than a year, while 54% admit their debt prevents them from buying basics, according to the Money Advice Service (MAS).
Nearly two-thirds of those with in serious debt say they have fallen behind on credit commitments in the past three months, with 41% saying they lack the skills and confidence to deal with creditors.
Worryingly, more than a fifth of those who have borrowed serious sums of money they are yet to repay don't class themselves as being in debt.
Three-quarters of those with serious debt problems are under the age of 45, while a third are between 35 and 44. And two-thirds of those with debt problems are women.
Hull has the most inhabitants struggling with debt, with 43% 'over-indebted', MAS said. This was supported by figures released yesterday that revealed Yorkshire and Humberside residents have the most unsecured debt in the UK, at £3,838 on average.
Get some help
Caroline Rookes, chief executive of MAS, said: "Millions of people could escape their spiral of debt by accessing free advice.
"We know it transforms lives and the sooner people access it the better - to take steps improve their life for good."