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Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Average household debt continues to rise but the percentage of Canadians who say they are stressed over their current debt load has fallen, according to a new poll.

Almost half -- 46 per cent -- of those surveyed for BMO's annual debt report said the debt they are carrying results in "some stress," but that figure is lower compared with the past two years: 54 per cent in 2014 and 57 per cent in 2013.

The findings come amid rising concerns over a sustained low interest-rate environment that some observers say has lulled many Canadians into thinking they can easily manage their debts but who will be in trouble when rates inevitably rise.

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Among other results of the poll, two-thirds of respondents -- 64 per cent -- said they would be stressed if interest rates were to increase by two percentage points.

One-quarter of respondents said they would be "very stressed," according to the survey, published Friday.

Yet 46 per cent of those with debt plan to take on more debt in the coming year.

The majority of those surveyed -- 59 per cent -- said they believe they will pay off their current debt in 5 years or less.

"The sizable number of indebted households that would feel very strained by a relatively moderate increase in interest rates is concerning," BMO Capital Markets senior economist Sal Guatieri said.

"Interest rates have been hovering around historic lows over the past few years, so many Canadians may have become more comfortable over time with managing their debt," BMO Bank of Montreal head of everyday banking Christine Canning said.

"That said, rates will inevitably rise to normal levels, so it's becoming increasingly important that Canadians stress-test their ability to afford the debt they currently have so they can effectively manage their finances in a higher rate environment."

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Canadians are now hefting an average of $92,000 in debt and paying $1,165 in monthly debt servicing costs, according to the survey. That's "trending slightly above the four year average" of $88,303 dating back to 2012 when the polling began.

The survey is based on interviews with an online sample of 1,001 Canadians conducted between June 19 and June 22. The margin of error for a sample of this size is plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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