Cash-strapped families are suffering financial difficulty because of a widespread reluctance to swap energy suppliers and take action over household bills.
Research has shown that fear over changing providers is costing people up to £235 a year on average.
The findings, which have been commissioned by comparethemarket.com, show that householders routinely put off tasks even though they know they will be able to save money by making a change.
Psychologists from the University of Sheffield are working with the comparison website to uncover the reasons for consumer inaction when it comes to personal finance.
The experts have discovered that 53 per cent of people in the Midlands admit to never changing a utility bill, despite around a quarter of those surveyed worrying about money at least once a week.
Dr Thomas Webb, a social psychologist at the university, said: “The fact that people could save money is widely documented, but we know less about what causes people to spend more than they need to.”
“We suspect that one reason could be ‘psychological inertia’ – this is the idea that people can be resistant to change and so keep doing things (or not doing things) even if they are not in their best interests.
“There is the potential for this to contribute to the UK’s financial hardship.”
Midlands energy expert Ron Fox said he was not surprised by the research and pointed out that additional savings could be made by installing simple energy-saving measures such as home insulation.
Ron, who owns green energy company Noreus, said: “Sometimes we don’t do what is best for us, even though we know exactly what we have to do to achieve a better outcome.
“So even though switching energy suppliers could save us money and won’t take up a lot of our time, we are still reluctant to go ahead and take action.”
Meanwhile the Government has announced plans to introduce an energy switching guarantee, designed to encourage families to shop around for the best deal.
Ron added: “Our message here at Noreus is that you can save more money, in addition to switching supplier, by making your home as energy efficient as possible.
“What is more, measures such as loft or wall insulation will not only result in a real difference in your pocket but will also make your home a cosier place to be by conserving what heat you do create and cutting noise and air pollution.
“To make sure your new year gets off to a green start, we are offering a free energy survey which people can claim by going to our website or calling us on 0845 474 6641.”