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Briefing paper 54: the public health implications of rising debt

Date: October 2018
Category: Briefing Paper
Author: GCPH

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This briefing paper highlights that the reasons why people use unsecure debt have changed in recent years and raises concerns about the potential damage to mental and physical health from the high levels of personal, unsecure debt currently seen in the UK. Prior to the recession unsecure debt was typically used for larger purchases such as cars, televisions or white goods. Increasingly this form of debt is used to pay for food, rent and essential household utilities, as many people and families use debt ‘to make ends meet’. 

The paper emphasises approaches to reduce poverty such as increases to the minimum wage and the adoption of the Living Wage alongside multi-agency ‘debt care pathways’ primarily involving NHS primary care and debt advice agencies. These pathways should include approaches to improve the mental, physical and financial health of vulnerable borrowers.