Financial Debt Amongst Older Women in the UK - Shame, Abuse and Resilience

Kingsley Purdam, Jennifer Prattley

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Long term poverty, precarious employment, low pay, the increased pension age and real term reductions in welfare benefits including bereavement allowances have brought into focus the financial vulnerability of many older women aged 55 years and older in the UK. In this article, survey data were analysed alongside evidence from observations of debt support meetings and interviews with older women who were receiving debt advice from a support charity. The findings suggest that older women were more likely to have financial problems than older men, particularly those women who were living on low incomes and who were separated or divorced. Following the breakdown of a relationship many older women were at increased risk of more debt and bankruptcy particularly those aged between 55 and 64 years old and those in routine and semi-routine occupations. Many women had kept their financial problems hidden due to fear and shame whilst bringing up their children and some had been subject to coercive control and economic abuse by their former husbands or partners. It is important that any pension reforms, changes to minimum wage rates and new divorce and domestic abuse legislation and welfare policies take account of the circumstances of separated, divorced and widowed older women. More financial support and advice needs to be provided to older women facing financial difficulties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1810 - 1832
Number of pages23
JournalAgeing & Society
Issue number8
Early online date1 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • Abuse, Coercive Control, Debt, Finances, Older Age, Precarious Employment, Secrecy, Shame


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