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In debt – Young adults and the dimensions of guilt

Over-indebtedness amongst young adults creates difficulties when entering adulthood and tends to be a long-term problem.


“Over-indebtedness” indicates enduring difficulties to pay off debts and fixed expenses. During the 2010s, over-indebtedness has increased among Swedish households and manifested itself as a societal problem. Moreover, indebtedness increases among young people, both to the state and the municipality, as well as to private creditors.

Rising consumption demands, high youth unemployment and an aggressive credit market make young people a particularly vulnerable group. In monetary terms, tax liabilities constitute the greatest debt among youth, while the most common causes of debt are driver's license bills, and unpaid invoices from e-commerce, healthcare fees and mobile bills. Other debts that are common among youth are crime-related debts, SMS loans and debts linked to betting. Over-indebtedness creates difficulties when entering adulthood and tends to be a long-term problem, which is why it is vital to deal with debt issues as early as possible. Nevertheless, young people's over-indebtedness – and its social aspects in particular – is an almost unexplored topic in Sweden.

Over-indebtedness is not only a financial problem. From a social perspective, the purpose of this project is to investigate how different aspects of indebtedness impact the lives of young people. Financial debt is closely related to legal and moral guilt, as well as stigmatization. We will also examine the social factors that enable and drive young people's over-indebtedness. These different aspects of indebtedness and guilt link to different research fields and the project has a high degree of originality by combining different implications of debt, which together can generate new terminologies to understand over-indebtedness. We will endeavour to make this theorizing practically applicable and will propose measures to curb the causes and consequences of over-indebtedness. In this way, the project promotes social and economic inclusion for a group at risk of lifelong exclusion.

"In debt" is a four-year research project funded by Forte and run by the School of Social Work at Lund University in collaboration with the Department of Social Work at the University of Gothenburg.


Project manager and researcher
Erik Eriksson, PhD in social work
School of Social Work, Lund University
Telephone: 046-222 96 05
Mobile phone: 070-359 07 27
Email: erik [dot] eriksson [at] soch [dot] lu [dot] se (erik[dot]eriksson[at]soch[dot]lu[dot]se)

Tobias Davidsson, PhD in social work
Department of Social Work, University of Gothenburg
Phone: 031-786 16 82
Mobile Phone: 076-618 1682
Email: tobias [dot] davidsson [at] socwork [dot] gu [dot] se (tobias[dot]davidsson[at]socwork[dot]gu[dot]se)

Project information

Time frame: 2021-2025

Financing: Forte

In co-operation with:

Logo of University of Gothenburg