'Financial phobia' is a genuine psychological condition for one-fifth of Britons who struggle to manage their finances, internet bank Egg says.
Academics at Cambridge University identify several symptoms of an ailment they say affects over 9 million Britons. These include not opening bank statements; never checking bank balances; and, in the most extreme cases, throwing away or filing unopened statements to avoid dealing with their personal finances altogether.
Financialphobes experience apprehension or disinterest when faced with the prospect of managing money. Dr Brendan Burchell, who led the research for Egg, says financial phobia can have real physical effects, brining on a dizzy spell or racing heart.
The syndrome is found across all classes and ages suggesting that no group is immune to the condition. Its onset appears to co-incide with some form of financial upset, such as the mis-selling of financial products, out of the control of the sufferer. For example, when a person's life savings are worth far less than expected through no fault of their own.
Other causes include procrastination, brought on by frustration at the time and effort needed to make money-related decisions, and lack of confidence in the ability to understand complex numerical information or small print, which in turn can lead to financial avoidance.
The highest levels of financial phobia, the report shows, are currently found in the younger age groups – 30% of 16-24 year olds and a quarter of 25-34 year olds are financialphobes, compared to 11% of over-65 year olds.
Burchell said: “The financial services industry can learn from this research and ensure that it treats customers in a way that does not disappoint and turn them into financialphobes.
“This research reinforces the importance of the government's role in regulating the financial services industry to eliminate the conditions that turn careful borrowers investors into financialphobes.”