One in five Britons suffer from financial phobia, a psychological condition which prevents them sorting out their personal finances, researchers claim.

Symptoms include feeling anxious, guilty, bored or out of control when managing their money, and this can lead to them not opening bank statements or checking balances or avoiding thinking about their money altogether.

The research, which was carried out by financial services group Egg and a senior lecturer at Cambridge University, found half the population show some symptoms of the syndrome.

It estimated up to nine million people suffer from the psychological and physiological condition.

Dr Brendan Burchell, of the faculty of social and political sciences at the Cambridge University, said: "Financialphobes are not irresponsible, feckless or spendthrifts. They have become entwined in this psychological syndrome which makes it very difficult for them to deal efficiently with their personal finances."

According to the research, 54 per cent of sufferers felt apprehension when they had to deal with money matters, while 38 per cent showed complete lack of interest in their finances.

People with the syndrome also suffered physical effects, with 45 per cent claiming the prospect of having to deal with their finances sends their heart racing, 12 per cent saying they felt physically ill, 11 per cent feeling dizzy and 15 per cent becoming immobilised.

The condition was found among all classes and age groups and its onset usually coincided with some form of financial upset, such as being mis-sold a financial product.

Other causes could be putting off dealing with money matters because of frustration about the time and effort needed to make decisions, and a lack of confidence when confronted with complex financial information.

The highest levels of financial phobia were found among younger age groups, with 30 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds suffering from the condition and 26 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds. Women were also more likely to suffer from the condition than men.

The research was based on telephone interviews with 300 people in July and August, a focus group discussion with five people, interviews with ten people in August and a telephone survey of 1,000 people in September.