What part does envy play in the apparently spiralling stock of personal debt in the UK, which last year passed the £1 trillion mark? New research by Stephen McKay, published in ESRCs new report Seven Deadly Sins, indicates that people who are envious of what others have, and dissatisfied with their own incomes, do tend to have higher levels of credit and greater difficulties making repayments. But the size of this effect is small compared with the effects of age, income and changes in circumstances.
Looking at data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), McKay finds that the average adult owes around £4,000. Men and women are almost equally likely to have taken out credit and to have store or credit cards, but men have borrowed rather more money – close to £5,000 on average while women typically owe around £3,000.
Analysis of the BHPS indicates that there is a link between individuals’ satisfaction with their household income and whether they have outstanding credit commitments. One third of people who are ‘completely satisfied’ with their income owe any money, compared with half of those expressing the least satisfaction. Those expressing the least satisfaction with their income are also the most likely to describe their loan repayments as a burden. The higher people’s satisfaction with their income, the less likely they are to believe that their repayments are a burden.
Becky Gammon | alfa
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