More than one in three people say they have debts hanging over them – rising to nearly half of 25 to 34-year-olds, the Salvation Army has found.
Some 35% of people surveyed across the UK currently owe money, such as on credit cards, overdrafts, payday loans or from buying goods on credit, with the 25 to 34-year-old age group particularly likely to be in debt, at 48%.
Nearly a third (30%) of people are more worried about their finances than last year, while 14% are less worried.
The majority (55%) said they do not feel any different from last year, the poll of more than 2,000 people from across the UK revealed.
The Salvation Army, which operates an expanding debt advice service to keep pace with demand, said more than a third of its clients are in work.
Its survey found that 69% of people who budget for expenses such as shopping and holidays occasionally or always experience busting it.
Men would be most likely to turn to their bank before seeking professional advice if in debt, the research showed, while women would be most likely to approach a family member.
Some 43% of men would go to their bank, compared with 29% of women, while 46% of women would turn to a family member, compared with 39% of men.
The Salvation Army operates a free not-for-profit debt advice service and is encouraging people to speak out and seek advice to manage their debts instead of turning to further credit or struggling alone.
Ways the charity has helped people in the past include helping them keep a roof over their heads, agreeing reduced payments to creditors, and offering additional support through food parcels.
The current value of debt it is supporting people to manage comes to a combined total of £3,585,478 – an average of £8,039 per client.
The main reasons for people finding themselves in debt were recorded as low income, long-term illness, over-commitment and reduced income.
Lorraine Cook, who heads the service, said debt can happen to anyone through job loss, illness, bereavement, relationship breakdowns and other unforeseen changes.
She said a large group of its clients “are in work but simply can’t keep up with the cost of living and therefore struggle to meet essential costs such as rent or council tax”.
Other debt advice support services available include Citizens Advice, StepChange Debt Charity, National Debtline and Christians Against Poverty.