An increasing number of people are struggling with overdraft debt because they have been unable to take out other types of credit, a debt advice charity has warned.
The Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) said almost 70,000 people had sought its help on the issue in the first half of this year, meaning the figure for all of 2012 was set to be the highest since the start of the credit crunch.
In contrast, it had seen a "marked decline" in people reporting problem credit card debt, with the number of people seeking help decreasing and the typical level of debt and the number of cards its clients held also falling.
It said it was likely that the rise in problem overdraft debt was down to people ramping up the amount they owed on their overdrafts after finding it harder to take out credit cards and personal loans in the toughened lending environment.
The CCCS warned that people were increasingly digging into their overdrafts to "mask" underlying problems, a tactic which was not sustainable.
It had seen increases in people seeking help with overdrafts across all age groups and the average sum its clients owed on their overdrafts had risen from around £1,700 five years ago to just over £2,000.
The biggest increases in amounts owed had been seen among people aged 60 and over, with almost 7,000 people in this age group seeking the CCCS' help last year with a typical overdraft debt of nearly £2,400. This is more than double the number of people in this age group who contacted the charity about the problem in 2007, with an average debt of £1,800.
Delroy Corinaldi, CCCS external affairs director, said: "People tend to view what they owe on their overdrafts differently to other types of debt such as credit card or personal loan. It is not unusual for those contacting the charity for help to not calculate what they owe on their overdraft as part of their overall debt.
"The problem with this is that it makes it easier for them to use their overdraft for day to day expenses, temporarily masking any problems they may be having with making ends meet. This is not sustainable, which is why rising numbers of people are struggling with the rising amounts they owe on their overdrafts."
People aged 41 to 59 have seen a £407 increase in the average size of their overdraft debt since 2007, typically owing £2,345, the charity said. Those aged 25 to 40 have an average overdraft debt of £1,824, an increase of £139 in the same period.