NEW YORK ( -- A troubling survey shows that older Americans are carrying more credit card debt than younger people, due mainly to job loss and medical bills, not because of a lack of financial responsibility.

The study looked at 997 middle-income households carrying credit card debt for at least three months. Of the respondents, households age 50 and older had an average credit card balance of $8,278 compared with an average debt of $6,258 for households under age 50.

The Demos' 2012 National Survey on Credit Card Debt of Low- and Middle-Income Households was done on behalf of AARP. The survey also found:

  • Half of the older households were carrying medical expenses, such as prescription drugs and dental expenses, on their credit card accounts.
  • 34% of the older households were using their credit cards to pay for basic living expenses such as groceries, utilities and housing costs.
  • Job loss was a factor in running up credit card debt in nearly 25% of the older households.
  • But the older households have a much bigger heart than the younger households: 23% have taken on credit card debt to help other family members versus 11% of the younger households.