Debt and health

The 2008 financial crisis and subsequent economic recession triggered a renewed focus on the relationship between socioeconomic factors and health. Specifically the economic downturn has raised concerns around the health and wellbeing of individuals accruing or experiencing personal debt.

A fundamental dimension of our work is to ensure that public health keeps pace with important contemporary socioeconomic factors that may influence population health. The vulnerability of the populations involved, the timeliness, scale and growth of the issue, make lending and debt worthy of investigation as a public health concern.

Unsecured personal debt, including; credit cards, overdrafts and short-term loans, is at its highest level in the UK since before the 2008 economic recession; with the level projected to rise higher still in the coming years. Through an evidence review, we have highlighted the importance of these current and rising levels of unsecure personal debt and its impacts on population health.   

In 2016 we published a briefing paper focussed exclusively on payday lending; a controversial practice which refers to short-term loans for small amounts of money with high interest rates and fees. Payday lending is targeted toward lower income, high-risk borrowers many of whom may be financially vulnerable. The purpose of the research was to further the understanding of the potential population health impacts of this fringe banking practice.