Money woe calls to Samaritans double

Samaritans volunteer on the phone
Image caption A large proportion of calls to the Samaritans in 2011 were over high-interest payday loans

Calls to the Samaritans' helpline about financial worries have doubled in the three years since the financial crisis began, the charity says.

One in five callers talked about job concerns, housing problems, debt and other financial pressures in 2011 - up from one in 10 calls in 2008.

In addition, a survey for the Samaritans of more than 2,000 people in the UK found 58% had fears about money.

It urged people struggling to cope with money worries to get in touch.

The YouGov survey for the Samaritans, an annual study of the nation's worries, found 58% had fears they would not have enough money to live comfortably in the coming year.

Bad year

More than a third (36%) were found to be concerned about losing their job or having difficulty finding work.

The online survey also revealed that nearly a quarter of people (24%) considered 2011 a bad year, or their worst year ever - however, this compared with 30% who had felt that way at the end of 2010.

Respondents said small acts of kindness, such as someone smiling at them (53%), giving them a hug (52%) or a compliment (52%), listening to them (44%) and having time to chat (44%), helped to brighten their day.

To build a profile of callers as part of the Samaritans' poll, volunteers at six branches were asked to monitor the nature of calls for a week between 31 October and 6 November, while the Yougov survey has been carried out annually since 2008, the charity said.

The charity receives some 2.5 million calls per year to its helpline, which runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Wendy Overshott, director of the Cornwall branch of Samaritans, said the financial pressures on people seemed to have grown more intense.

"The thing that has really struck us is that, not only are we getting more calls from people who are talking about financial concerns, but the degree of severity seems greater," said Mrs Overshott, 67, a volunteer of eight years.

"In the past when people perhaps had job worries it would be a question of what they do next, now there seems to be somewhat more despondency."

Many calls referred to spiralling debts and there was more awareness that money had to stretch much further, Mrs Overshott said.

A large proportion of calls involved worries over high-interest payday loans - an issue highlighted this month by experts claiming that millions would take out the loans over the festive period.

"If you add together those concerned about money, their bank balance and jobs, you're talking about a lot of people who have the same sort of problems," she said.

'Talking helps'

Christmas is one of the busiest times for the Samaritans because of financial fears and loneliness. But Mrs Overshott stressed it was positive more callers were relaying their concerns.

"We always say to people that whatever the worry, whatever the problem, talking about it can actually help," she said.

In July researchers said the financial crisis had led to an increase in suicide in most European countries. Unemployed people are two to three times more likely to commit suicide, a study on the effects of the 2008 recession on health suggested.

Meanwhile this month a well-being survey by the Office for National Statistics indicated that three-quarters of people in the UK were satisfied with life.

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