People living in heavily populated metropolitan areas are more likely to default on outstanding credit card and loan commitments than people living in more rural areas, according to a nationwide survey.

The survey, carried out by Leeds University's Credit Market Research Centre on behalf of the credit reference agency Callcredit, compared actual default rates across 17 UK regions.

Urban conurbations filled the bottom five places in the table (see table below) with the metropolitan counties of the North West, including Greater Manchester and Merseyside, having the highest levels of bad debtors, closely followed by Outer London, Northern metropolitan counties and Inner London.

Lenders' money is safest in the hands of people living in the South West, who pipped residents of the outer metropolitan area of the South East for top spot in the table.

Nick Wilson, head of the CMRC, said:

"The survey shows that in major urban areas, where you have a fast-moving population, more people are willing to take a risk with their finances, which produces a higher level of bad debt.

"In contrast, in rural areas you have a more stable population, with people who are far more risk averse."

The CMRC also analysed demographic factors affecting default rates such as marital status, family size, home ownership and employment, as well as financial factors such as the number of credit accounts used in each geographical area.

Callcredit director Graham Lund said:

"In most cases the findings bear out what people would expect. Unemployment, a high level of loan accounts, low house prices and large family size are all factors that increase the likelihood of someone failing to honour their commitments.

"Conversely, being married, owning a home and having cash savings are factors which point to people paying their debts.

"Interestingly, the analysis suggests that people with more than the average number of credit cards are less likely to default than people who have less cards. Does this indicate careful cash management or that they are good plate spinners whose overindebtedness has not yet turned into defaults?"