Christmas debt and mental health

From Kieran Towler, Project Co-ordinator, Gofal

Christmas is a time for cheer, presents and family times; this alone can be difficult for people suffering with poor mental health. Christmas brings its own challenges and anxieties which we all feel, but added to this there is the feeling that this should be the “best Christmas ever” with the hype in the media and the pressures of advertising. All of these factors can push people into borrowing to ensure they live up to the dream.

To do this we are seeing an increasing trend in people borrowing to fund Christmas rather than saving for the big day. People are borrowing beyond their means and getting into real difficulties and this is having a significant impact on their wellbeing. On Christmas Day the kids are happy, you are happy, the food was great and all went well.

Then on Boxing Day the reality starts to hit home, I am not sure how I am going to pay this all back now? Maybe this year I have gone too far? The anxiety starts to build inside, followed by the sleepless nights and the pressure of debt is mounting. This may sound dramatic but it is a story we hear on a regular basis from people who have had a mental health diagnosis in the past or present, or have recently being diagnosed due to their debt.

In other circumstances we are seeing people with poor credit histories being targeted by high interest loan companies. Some of these people have severe and enduring mental health difficulties and may have been through bankruptcy, and are still in bankruptcy, being offered credit at unaffordable rates of interest.

Taken from the Royal College of Psychiatrists website:

One in four adults will have a mental health problem at some point in any given year.

One in two adults with debts has a mental health problem.

One in four people with a mental health problem is also in debt.

Debt can cause – and be caused by – mental health problems. It’s tempting to just not think about it – it can be uncomfortable and can make you feel guilty, depressed – or even hopeless. But sorting money problems out can help you to feel better – and to stay well.


  • Don’t ignore debt – it will only get worse.
  • Explain your problems to someone you trust.
  • Be sure to get expert independent advice.
  • Take control of your money and spending.

If you are thinking of borrowing for Christmas, ensure it is affordable and if your circumstances change and your debt becomes unmanageable, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It could be the difference that helps you ensure your own mental health and wellbeing.

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