Most people who have used a payday loan did so just to cover their food costs, new research by Christians Against Poverty has revealed.
The Christian debt charity asked 1,500 of its client if they had taken out a payday loan and was shocked by its findings.
More than half (51%) said they had taken out two to five payday loans, but an alarming 16% said they had "lost count" of how many they had used.
The majority (78%) said they had taken out a payday loan to afford food. Over half (52%) said they had used a payday loan to pay for electricity or gas bills, while over a third (36%) said they had spent it on rent.
While most (86%) said they had been asked by payday lenders about their income, one in five (19%) said they had not even been asked if they had a job.
CAP Chief Executive Matt Barlow said: "This evidence shows that people taking out payday loans are not, typically, doing cosy house repairs as most payday lenders would have us believe. People who take out this expensive sort of credit are hungry, worried about keeping warm and becoming homeless.
"Some elements of the industry have worked hard to improve their practices - and we warmly welcome that - but these findings show irresponsible lending still looms large and those companies give the better firms a very bad name."
CAP is calling for tighter regulations to protect vulnerable people from rogue payday lenders.
Mr Barlow said: "We try hard to take a balanced view, being fair to both our clients and the credit industry. Therefore we shall be taking this report to individual companies and the Consumer Finance Association with the expectation that they will want to engage with us.
"We want to see regulations that insist on appropriate affordability checks including a mandatory sign-up to a credit reference company which will work in real-time, to stop people taking out multiple loans on the same day or living a payday loan lifestyle, paying one off with another.
"Thankfully there are companies who are leading the way in responsible lending and we want to see this best practice spread to the smaller names and the overseas operations who seem all-too-happy to operate outside of the OFT's guidelines."