Debt can lead to divorce for older couples

Recent research has shown that elderly couples who struggle to cope with debt are more than twice as likely to suffer the breakdown of their marriage, compared to couples with steady finances.

Older people are just as likely to be damaged by debt as younger people, argues the study which was carried out by Age-UK and the International Longevity Centre study.

The authors of the report say that retired people’s budgets have been squeezed by rising energy bills and the poor returns on savings and investments that have resulted from low interest rates. The report’s authors argue that more debt advice is needed for old people in England.

The study found that “a statistically significant decrease in quality of life” among older people whose debt had become a problem, adding that older couples in this situation were twice as likely to experience the breakdown of their marriage than those who had managed to stay in control of their finances.

“This pattern was not found among those who entered unsecured credit arrangements but were not in problem debt. This suggests that problem debts could have contributed to the breakdown,” says the study.

Michelle Mitchell of Age UK said: “There is a small group of older people who are facing the nightmare of increasingly serious debt problems.

“While it is good news that overall debt among the older population is falling, this research, supported by evidence from other charities, sends a clear warning that funding for debt and money advice for older people must be protected and expanded.

“Debt advisors need to understand the specific needs of older people often living on low fixed incomes and particular attention must be paid to those moving into self-employment or who have recently become unemployed.”

The report uses figures from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing which focuses on people aged over 50 and has produced figures every two years since 2002. The most recent figures used date from 2010.


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