High cost of living has forced one in five Britons to borrow money to buy groceries, according to a survey.
One in four said they have had to dip into their savings to buy food or other daily essentials, while 19% have gone into debt to do this.
Another 10% said they could envisage borrowing money to buy food in the future.
The survey by consumer group Which? found that only 43% of consumers feel they can afford to live on their income, while 36% admitted to finding things difficult – twice the proportion who were struggling in 2006.
The survey showed that less than half of the respondents have an annual income estimated at less than ?21,000, 55% of them use credit cards each week to buy food. A third of these Britons confirmed that they have been forced to borrow money from friends or family in order to cover the cost of food.
The Which? Consumers’ 2012 report found that more people are socialising at home instead of going to the pub, with 38% doing this as a result of the downturn.
Which? referred to the financial crisis as the ’3D Squeeze’ because it has affected income, life events and spending habits.
Executive Director of the group Richard Lloyd said, “Over half of UK consumers are not coping on their current incomes. Worryingly, one in five people told us they had gone into debt just to buy food and other essential goods.
“We know consumers are worried about rising food and energy prices. Our research also highlights significant changes being made to other buying decisions.”
The Which? survey comes after the Co-operative Bank revealed that half of all households have seen their debt rise this year and most people owe ?325 more than they did three months ago because of overspending at Christmas.
Almost a third are not prepared to confront the issue and more worryingly most are not concerned until they have accumulated an average of ?1,247 of debt in overdrafts, credit cards or loans – despite this taking months or years for many to pay off.
The poll also found that a quarter of Britons do not suffer from a difficult financial situation, compared with 36% suffering from considerable financial pressure. The survey results come at a time when official statistics revealed low numbers of Britons who are suffering from financial hardship to the lowest level in five years.