Nearly four out of five young people have been or are in debt, according to a new report published by youth charity Rainer.
It discovered a third of young people had owed above £5,000 and one in five had owed more than £10,000.
These debts are not just from student loans but also come from credit cards, overdrafts and other loans, it reported.
One in five young people are left with £50 a month or less to love on after paying off debts and bills, Rainer warned, and one in ten are left with nothing.
Chief executive of Rainer Joyce Moseley said debt might be becoming more normal but that for many young people, it was a "millstone around their neck".
She warned: "In addition to the stress it can cause, there is strong evidence that debt can prevent young people from living independently or taking part in education or even eating healthily."
Website YouthInformation.com warns that young people are particularly vulnerable to debt, often as a result of unemployment or low wages and sometimes as a result of "tempting offers" of credit made by retailers.