A significant percentage of U.S. residents who suffer from critical illnesses end up charging large amounts of medical expenses and recovery-related expenses.

About 7% of U.S. residents who have suffered from critical illnesses, or have suffered through a spouse’s critical illness, said they accumulated more than $5,000 in credit card debt as a result of the illness, and 3% said they accumulated more than $25,000 in credit card debt in connection with the illness, according to researchers at Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York.

The researchers have published those figures in a summary of results from a survey of 1,000 U.S. residents ages 1,000 and older.

About one-sixth of the survey participants had suffered from a critical illness or had been married to someone with a critical illness.

The majority of participants said they thought the understood the differences between critical illness insurance, health insurance, disability insurance and long term care insurance, but many seemed to have incorrect beliefs that health, disability or LTC insurers would pay lump-sum cash benefits if insureds suffered from a critical illness, and many participants seemed to underestimate the difficulty of getting accelerated death benefits from life insurance policies, the Guardian researchers report.