New survey findings commissioned from YouGov by StepChange Debt Charity reveal that more than a quarter of us (27%) started the New Year feeling uneasy about our finances. Among people who feel uneasy, two thirds (65%) have felt this way for more than a year. A fifth (22%) have felt uneasy for more than five years, or have never felt comfortable financially.

This Blue Monday, StepChange is urging anyone with debt problems to seek free advice from a debt charity. Three months after advice, four out of five StepChange clients report that their wellbeing has improved on at least one measure such as sleeping better or feeling more able to cope.

The polling reveals some striking differences between genders and age groups. There is a notable gender gap, with more men (36%) than women (28%) feeling confident about the state of their finances.

People in the 25-49 age group are the most concerned about their financial situation. 26% of those aged 25-49 feel “uneasy” financially and are unsure if they will be able to make ends meet, and another 8% are currently feeling” very uneasy” about their financial situation and know they will have to go without essentials like food or heating this year.

Among the general population, 13% of people (equivalent to an estimated 6.5 million people) say that at some point they have sought advice from a debt advice charity. Among those who have been feeling uneasy for more than a year, 24% have sought advice – but 73% have not.

Among all consumers who are currently feeling uneasy financially, 37% nevertheless say they do not need advice.  13% say they don’t know where to find advice, 13% are embarrassed about getting advice, 8% haven’t had time to get advice, and 13% don’t want their friends or family to find out. Worryingly, 17% of GB adults who are feeling uneasy financially say they have an additional problem preventing them from getting advice.

Younger people are more likely than older groups to say they feel embarrassed about getting advice – 13% of 18-24s are embarrassed to get advice, dropping to 9% of 25-49s, 5% of 50-64s, and 1% of those aged 65+.

StepChange Debt Charity urges people not to let embarrassment act as a barrier to getting advice. Most people who have sought advice from a debt advice agency or charity in the past say it helped. Three fifths (59%) say it made a positive difference to their financial situation.

The survey asked people what advice they would give to someone who was facing financial difficulty. Many said they would advise actions such as cutting back spending, and budgeting, being honest, talking about it, and getting help. A sizeable number of people said they wouldn’t know what advice to give, or wouldn’t feel it their place to give advice. While an encouraging number of people already said they would encourage their friend or family member to “seek help”, StepChange urges people to make this the first advice they would give to a friend in debt.

Commenting on the Blue Monday financial polling, StepChange Director of External Affairs Richard Lane said “Financial unease is common, affecting more than a quarter of us. If debt is contributing to your own Blue Monday, don’t suffer in silence – get advice. And if someone you know has debt problems, the best thing you can do is encourage them to contact a reputable, free debt advice charity for help, rather than trying to sort out their problems without expert support.”

The full report can be viewed here.