Three in five Ontarians concerned about repaying debts amid high interest rates and inflation, revealing financial strain and mental health impact

2024-01-08  4 minute read

Caryl Newbery-Mitchell

MNP Consumer Debt Index

  • More Ontarians (65%, +5 pts) are concerned about their ability to repay their debts, regret the amount of debt they’ve taken on (50%, +5 pts), or are concerned about their current level of debt (48%, +3 pts). 
  • More are making only minimum payments on credit cards (28%) or on line of credit (21%) compared to 2021. 
  • One in five (20%) say they took from savings, home equity, RSP, or alternative methods to pay debt or day-to-day expenses in the last year.
  • Ontarians are the most likely of the provinces to say their financial situation causes them stress (62%) or embarrassment (44%). More than half say they feel a greater sense of isolation (54%) or anxiety (63%).

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TORONTO, ON – January 8, 2024 – The impact of inflation and higher interest rates is leaving Ontarians feeling pessimistic about their current debt situation, according to the latest MNP Consumer Debt Index. More this quarter perceive their debt situation as much worse (24%, +4 pts), and Ontarians are the least likely to rate it better (19%, -3 pts) than those in the other provinces compared to a year ago. Looking back to five years ago, a rising proportion (30%, +5 pts) say their debt situation has worsened, and fewer (24%, -3 pts) say it has improved. 

More Ontarians say they regret the amount of debt they’ve taken on in life (50%, +5 pts), and more are concerned about their current level of debt (48%, +3 pts) compared to last quarter. More than three in five agree they are concerned about their ability to repay their debts (65%, +5 pts).

“Using credit to cope with rising expenses has provided temporary relief for many Ontarians. However, the data shows that the burden of paying back that debt is intensifying the financial pressure on many households, especially amid higher interest rates,” says Caryl Newbery-Mitchell, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with MNP LTD in Toronto. “Most necessities now cost more, and the cost of debt repayment has increased. This causes people to feel more pessimistic about being able to manage their debts, making ends meet, and their financial situation in general.”

Interest rates likely contribute to Ontarians’ financial concerns as many are pessimistic about their ability to absorb interest rate increases. Nearly three in 10 (27%, +2 pts) say their ability to deal with an interest rate increase of one percentage point has worsened, while one in five (20%, -4 pts) say they are better equipped to absorb this increase. When this question was rephrased to ask their ability to absorb an interest rate increase of an extra $130, more than a third (37%, unchanged) say their ability to absorb this increase is much worse, while less than one in five (17%, -2 pts) say it has improved.  

“Households that have already stretched their budgets to keep up with the escalating cost of living might feel they need to use additional debt to cover daily essentials. This often leads to a precarious cycle where they attempt to fill a hole by digging another,” says Newbery-Mitchell. 

One in five (20%) Ontarians say they needed to take money from savings, home equity, RSP, or alternative methods to pay debt or day-to-day expenses in the past year. Additionally, the number of Ontarians opting to make only the minimum payments on their debts has jumped over the past two years. More than a quarter (28%) say they have only made the minimum payments towards the balance on their credit card, up six points since 2021. One in five (21%) have made only the minimum payments on their line of credit, an increase of 10 points compared to 2021. A fifth (21%) indicate they borrowed money they can’t afford to pay back quickly, up nine points since 2021. 

“Ontarians are facing looming holiday bills, approaching mortgage renewals, and what feels like relentless rising costs. It’s understandable that many might be on the brink of significant mental and financial strain,” says Newbery-Mitchell. 

The survey also underscores the impact of finances on Ontarians’ mental health, with Ontarians being the most likely to say their financial situation causes them stress (62%) and that they are embarrassed by the amount of debt they owe (44%). More than half say their financial situation causes them to feel a greater sense of isolation (54%) or anxiety (63%). Two in five (39%) admit to hiding their credit card debt from friends and family.

“There is often a point where an individual realizes there is no clear way to pay back what they owe, regardless of the interest rate or timeline. This can be an extremely embarrassing realization for some, which is often followed by feelings of stress and isolation,” explains Newbery-Mitchell. 

She says that the shame and guilt associated with unmanageable debt often cause people to delay getting help, and many draw out the situation using credit to stay afloat. Some may face aggressive collections activity or debt relief scams — resulting in more stress and sleepless nights. 

“Personal well-being is very much connected to financial health and preparedness. Those enduring financial hardship should seek help, the same way someone facing a health crisis would seek help,” says Newbery-Mitchell.  

MNP’s national team of Licensed Insolvency Trustees offers free consultations to help severely indebted Ontarians get unbiased debt advice, understand their rights, and determine the best path forward. Licensed Insolvency Trustees are the only federally regulated debt professionals who can assist with all the debt relief options, including Consumer Proposals and Bankruptcy, stop harassment from debt collectors, and discharge people from debt. 

“Our clients often struggle with debt needlessly for years, sometimes decades, before seeking our assistance,” Newbery-Mitchell explains. “For some, a Consumer Proposal or Bankruptcy may be necessary, but others may simply need guidance on developing a budget and a plan to deal with their debt load. No situation is the same, which is why it is important that individuals get personalized, unbiased advice from a licensed professional.”


MNP LTD, a division of the national accounting firm MNP LLP, is the largest insolvency practice in Canada. For more than 50 years, our experienced team of Licensed Insolvency Trustees and advisors have been working with individuals to help them recover from times of financial distress and regain control of their finances. With more than 240 offices from coast to coast, MNP helps thousands of Canadians each year who are struggling with an overwhelming amount of debt. Visit to contact a Licensed Insolvency Trustee or use our free Do-it-Yourself (DIY) debt assessment tools. For regular, bite-sized insights about debt and personal finances, subscribe to the MNP 3-Minute Debt Break Podcast.

About the MNP Consumer Debt Index

The MNP Consumer Debt Index measures Canadians’ attitudes toward their consumer debt and gauges their ability to pay their bills, endure unexpected expenses, and absorb interest-rate fluctuations without approaching insolvency. Conducted by Ipsos and updated quarterly, the Index is an industry-leading barometer of financial pressure or relief among Canadians. 

Now in its twenty-seventh wave, the Index decreased to 83 points, down three points since last quarter. Visit to learn more.

The data was compiled by Ipsos on behalf of MNP LTD between November 28 and December 4, 2023. For this survey, a sample of 2,000 Canadians aged 18 years and over was interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, coverage error and measurement error.

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