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Study finds every fifth Swedish young adult has payment problems

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New study from Lund University Internet Institute shows that young urban men are at particular risk of developing financial problems

Approximately one in five Swedish young adults (18–25) have experienced recurring problems with paying their bills in the past year. The group with recurring payment problems tend to make more unplanned purchases, are less likely to have a social network to discuss their financial problems with, and are less likely to have friends that could help them financially, than those who do not experience problems with paying their bills.

This is shown in a new study on digital consumption and over-indebtedness amongst young adults in Sweden by researchers at the Lund University Internet Institute (LUii).

The aim of the project was to create a better understanding of how digitisation in our everyday lives – including consumption, credit management and overall communication – affects the financial vulnerability of young adults.

The research group conducted a survey of over 1,100 young Swedish adults.

The survey confirms that the Internet is a natural part of the young adults’ everyday lives, and that smartphones play a central role in this development. The smartphone is well integrated in consumption practices as well, but it also constitutes a significant expense in the context of the financial situation of most young adults. The smartphone can be the “first access-point to credit”, according to the municipal financial advisers interviewed in the study.

Approximately 18–21% of the participants to the quantitative survey, had experienced recurring problems with paying their bills during the past year, including their rent and instalment payments.

Young men at higher risk to get into debt 

The study also indicates that young urban men are a particularly at risk of developing financial problems. Men tend to experience payment difficulties more frequently than women, and having more than one mobile subscription – which may indicate a financial problem – is more common among urban men.

“Young adults are often already in a financially dynamic and sometimes bumpy period in their lives, and the results indicate that payment problems also involve a social dimension that requires more studies to be understood and dealt with”, says Associate Professor Stefan Larsson who led the study.

Associate Professor Stefan Larsson. Photo: Magnus Gudmundsson
Associate Professor Stefan Larsson. Photo: Magnus Gudmundsson

Interviews with municipal financial advisers  indicate that young adults often refrain from seeking help, which may become an issue later in life when their financial problems have become even more severe.

“They may acquire life-long debt trap, but it is possible to identify risk factors, which shows the need for preventive and earlier efforts,” says Dr. Lupita Svensson, who implemented the interview survey.

The third project member is Dr. Hanna Carlsson, and the study was one of two that were funded in 2015 as part of the Swedish Enforcement Authority’s research efforts and preventive measures against over-indebtedness.

Download the report: Digital Consumption and Over-Indebtedness among Young Adults in Sweden (PDF)