13th October 2021 | 5 minute read

Is the UK borrowing well?

Recent research commissioned by ilumoni and conducted by OnePoll found that, despite overwhelming borrower confidence in their ability to manage and calculate the cost of their borrowing, stress and worry as a result of debt is widespread and the capability to make financial calculations in relation to borrowing is poor. 

Our report, ‘Borrower confidence, capability and stress: is the UK borrowing well?’ provides insight into the relationship between stress, debt and the ability to manage borrowing. 

Read the report

Our key findings

The report is broken down into six key findings:

Finding 1: UK borrowers aren’t aware of the true cost of borrowing, despite high confidence

  • Almost ¾ of borrowers (73%) claimed to be confident in their ability to make accurate calculations when working out the cost of borrowing overall, however, just over 1 in 10 (11%) correctly selected the interest they’d pay on a three-year loan

  • Those who were confident did not answer materially better than those who were not

  • When asked to identify how long a credit card with a balance of £1,746, always paying the minimum of 1% or £5 at an APR of 21.9%, would take to repay, 43% thought it would take less than half the time to repay

ilumoni Co-Founder and Product & Customer Director, Jonathan Corner says, “the overconfidence, combined with low capability, that we’ve seen in this research is exactly why raising awareness of how our borrowing behaviours can impact the amount we pay for our borrowing, and how long we carry it for, is so crucial to the work we’re doing here at ilumoni. There’s no shame in getting these questions wrong - the majority did - but what is important is recognising that we’re often not as well informed as we could be when making decisions about our borrowing.” 

Read the report

Finding 2: Borrower stress is widespread

  • 58% of respondents say they are not happy with how they manage their borrowing

  • 1 in 5 borrowers feel nervous about speaking to financial services professionals about their borrowing all or most of the time (21%)

  • Around a third of borrowers (29%) feel stressed, down, depressed or anxious about their borrowing

With the relationship between debt and mental health a complex one, these statistics are particularly concerning. Impulsive behaviour is also evident within the proportion of those surveyed, with around 2 in 5 (39%) of those who are not confident typically having ‘debt regret’, compared with 1 in 4 (26%) of those who are confident. 

Read the report

Finding 3: Gen Z and Millennials carry the greatest burden of debt

  • There were stark differences between under 45s and the 45 and overs in their attitudes to debt management, repayment behaviour, attitudes to purchasing on credit and feelings of worry and stress

  • Under 45s are more than twice as likely to feel their borrowing is controlling them most or all of the time (29% vs 12%)

  • Gen Z in particular have ​​very high incidences of impulsive behaviour and sub-optimal repayment behaviours, with 7 in 10 saying they typically worry about how to pay for it later when buying something using credit 

Read the report

Finding 4: Having two or more children at home has a significant impact on borrower behaviour and stress

Those with 2 or more children at home, compared with no children, are:

  • Ten times more likely to miss payments or exceed limits all or most of the time (33% vs 3%)

  • Four times more likely to regularly worry about how much their borrowing is costing them (55% vs 13%)

  • Eight times more likely to typically have a plan for how to pay it back that they rarely stick to (16% vs 2%)

Around 1 in 3 of those with 2 children or more at home want to improve their borrowing (31%), but 29% do not know how. 

Read the report

Finding 5: Men bear the brunt of borrower stress

In comparison to women, men are:

  • More likely to admit to impulsive behaviours than women (27% don’t think about how much it might cost overall when buying on credit, compared with 19% of women)

  • Two and a half times more likely than women to lose sleep every day over their borrowing (12% vs 5%)

  • More likely to feel like their borrowing is controlling them all or most of the time (24% vs 16%)

Half of men (50%) say they would prefer to use an app or online chat than speak to someone about their borrowing at least some of the time. 

Jonathan says, “While the impulsive behaviours are concerning, as they often cause people to carry debt for longer periods and pay more than is necessary, what’s perhaps more concerning is the level of stress men are feeling. Online tools and information are an important outlet to serve the needs of those who feel less comfortable talking and in this instance, men specifically.” 

Read the report

Finding 6: Borrowers in London feel the pressures of debt more than anywhere else in the UK

Regional differences were stark in a variety of areas:

  • London borrowers are five times more likely to say they typically have a plan for how to pay back that they rarely stick to

  • Almost half of Londoners (49%) say they miss or exceed payments at least some of the time - they are the most likely to miss payments or exceed limits of any region

  • Over half (51%) of those in London worry a few times a month or more about how much their borrowing is costing them vs 26% in the rest of the UK

Read the report


The findings of this report, though in some ways expected, are still shocking in a number of ways, and the correlation between high levels of borrower stress and impulsive borrowing behaviours (worrying about how to pay it back after the fact, not thinking about how much it might cost overall) indicate that ‘debt regret’ plays a significant role in increased stress.

At ilumoni, we aim to address the root cause of that by providing appropriate tools and clear, personalised insights into people’s borrowing behaviours, and the impact of those on how much they pay, or how long for. With these, borrowers can begin to take action and make better-informed decisions, suited to their own needs and circumstances. 

A note on methodology

The survey was conducted by OnePoll in September 2021 and comprised a series of questions aimed to capture a ‘state of the nation’ picture of attitudes, behaviours and emotional responses to debt. 

2000 respondents aged 18+ were surveyed, all of whom hold lending products (excluding only student loans). 

Additional analysis of individual question responses will be released separately.

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ilumoni is a trading name of Monely Limited registered and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (928933 and 928681), registered in England and Wales (Company number 11886611), Registered Office: The Barnsley Digital Media Centre, County Way, Barnsley, S70 2JW

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