BC Cost of Living Increasingly Driving Consumers to Insolvency, with Mental Health Suffering the Impacts of Debt-Stress – 11th Annual BC Consumer Debt Study

Credit cards top problem debt for nearly 3 in 5 people; payday loans taking second place. Nearly 4 in 5 consumers suffering a debt problem say it impacted their mental health, and over 70% said overwhelming stress was how they knew their debts were becoming a problem.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Jan. 15, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Licensed Insolvency Trustees Sands & Associates released complete findings from their 2023 BC Consumer Debt Study today, the unique 11th annual study exploring consumer debt problems in the province.

Sands & Associates President Blair Mantin explains, in polling over 1,700 BC consumers who recently filed an insolvency proceeding in this survey:

“We aim to expose the realities of the severe financial challenges that people across the province are currently facing. The self-blame, shame, and isolation many people coping with a debt problem experience often stops them from seeking support. It’s important to us as industry leaders to bring these facts to light, and let people know that more than anything or anyone else – you owe it to yourself to get debt help.”

Click here to read the 2023 BC Consumer Debt Study report in PDF format

Key Findings of Consumer Debt Issues – 2023 BC Consumer Debt Study

The largest proportion of 2023 BC Consumer Debt Study participants (36%) said they had $25,000-$49,999 of debt (excluding vehicle loans/mortgages) when they started a formal debt relief process.

  • Almost 3 in 5 individuals polled (58%) indicated that credit card debt was the main type of debt they had, nearly five times more than the next debt type.
  • Close to 1 in 8 people (12%) said payday or instalment loans was their main type of debt, the highest proportion of this debt type in the study series’ history.
  • 30% of participants described their credit rating in range from ‘good’ to ‘excellent’ at the time of starting a Consumer Proposal or Bankruptcy.

2023’s BC Consumer Debt Study also illuminates consumers’ vulnerability to personal and economic issues outside an individual’s direct control, and the debt problems that can develop as a result:

  • 27% of study respondents said their debt was caused by overextended credit due to general financial mismanagement.
  • The second-most reported cause of debt, from 25% of BC consumers polled, was using credit for essential costs of living income could not cover.
    • The proportion of individuals attributing their debt to living costs increased from 20% in 2022’s study, now more than double other common causes of debt.
  • The remaining top six causes of debt stated by consumers were: Illness, injury or health-related problems (11%); Marital or relationship breakdown (7%); Job related issue (5%) and Pandemic-related job loss or reduction in work hours (5%).

95% of 2023 BC Consumer Debt Study participants indicated their household has been impacted by recent inflation increases, with the largest cohort (88%) noting that inflation has their household now spending more on necessities such as food and gas.

  • More than 4 in 5 participants (87%) said filing a Consumer Proposal or declaring Personal Bankruptcy has helped them manage day-to-day finances despite noticeable rising costs.

Signs, Symptoms and Solutions to Personal Debt Problems

More than 7 in 10 consumers polled (71%) said overwhelming stress was how they knew their debts were becoming a problem.

  • Other signs of a debt problem that individuals identified were: Only making minimum payments (60%); seeing debt balances remain almost the same every month, despite making payments (55%) and accumulating more debt on credit accounts (37%).

Study participants disclosed a range of personal impacts due to their debt issues, including:

  • A constant worry about debt for over 4 in 5 people (83%).
  • Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) said their mental health suffered by being in debt, and 3 in 5 (61%) that their self-esteem suffered because of being in debt. Nearly half of individuals surveyed (49%) said debt caused their physical health to suffer.
  • 29% of individuals said the stress of their debt caused them to alienate themselves from family or friends, and 30% said their relationships suffered due to debt-stress.
  • Over three-quarters of people surveyed (77%) said they experienced anxiety from the stress of debt; also 66% feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, and 61% depression.
  • Almost 1 in 6 individuals (16%) said they experienced suicidal ideation because of their debt-stress.

We highly encourage readers to discover more insights shared by 2023 BC Consumer Debt Study participants, including how individuals attempted to solve their problem debt, how the experience has impacted their financial attitudes and outlook, and more – as highlighted within the 2023 BC Consumer Debt Study report.

Click here to read the 2023 BC Consumer Debt Study report in PDF format

Blair Mantin, Licensed Insolvency Trustee

PDFs accompanying this release are available at:



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2023 BC Consumer Debt Study Report 2023 BC Consumer Debt Study Report Infographic