Almost half (44 per cent) of people owe sums they have kept secret from their family, partner or pals, according to the Money Advice Service.
The average hidden debt is £4,164 per person.
The poll of 4,000 adults was to mark Talk Money Week, which aims to improve people’s money management skills and financial wellbeing.
Nearly a third (29 per cent) of people with debts who are in a relationship said their partner does not know about all the money they owe. And five per cent admit their partner is completely in the dark about their debts.
Women are more likely to talk to their friends about debts than men, the research suggests.
Credit cards were found to be the most likely source of hidden debt, with personal loans, overdrafts, informal loans from loved ones and store cards also common sources of hidden debt.
Caroline Siarkiewicz, head of debt advice for MAS, said: “Sharing a problem is the first step to solving it.”
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