Single parents, big families and young adults are the groups most likely to be struggling with problem debts.
Those renting properties are also twice as likely to have money worries than those who buy their own home, new research shows.
A study by the Money Advice Service (MAS) and marketing analysis firm CACI shows how likely people are to fall into problem debt.
The research focuses on what the MAS calls over-indebtedness – where people have either fallen behind with their bills in at least three of the past six months or feel their debts are a heavy burden.
According to the MAS, a million single parents in the UK are currently living with problem debt and single parents are one-and-a-half times more likely to be over-indebted than two-parent families.
The amount of children you have also has an impact on how likely you are to get into problem debt.
Those with no children have a 13% chance of debt problems. That rises to 20% of adults with at least one child and 26% among those with three or more children.
Young adults (aged 25-34) are the age group most likely to be living with debt problems – 2.1m currently do.
The research shows that, although the likelihood of indebtedness peaks at this age, it doesn’t start to fall significantly until the 55-64 age band.
The study also shows that renting a property makes you twice as likely to have debt problems than those who own their own home (25% compared to 12%). 4.1m of the UK’s 16m renters are living with debt problems.
Caroline Siarkiewicz, head of debt advice at the Money Advice Service, said: “This research breaks new ground, providing us with the most up to date look at levels of problem debt across the UK.
“We estimate that 8.2m UK adults suffer with financial worries — with younger adults, larger families and single parents noticeably at higher risk.”
“We know that debt advice works but currently, only one in five people with financial difficulties seek advice.
“Today we are calling on everyone with problem debt or money worries, no matter how large or small, to access free advice as soon as possible.”
The MAS study also revealed which local authorities had the highest percentage of people with problem debt.
Nearly a quarter (24.7%) of those living in Sandwell, in the West Midlands, are living with debt problems. Blaenau Gwent (24.3%) and Merthyr Tydfil (24.1%) in south Wales were second and third on the list.
East Renfrewshire in Scotland is the place with the smallest percentage of people (10.1%) living with debt.