The figures are not evidence of the credit crunch, experts say
Several of the country's worst blackspots for insolvencies are South West England, according to new figures seen by the BBC.
Plymouth and Torbay are the worst and second-worst places in the whole of England and Wales.
Somerset's Taunton Deane is 10th worst, Caradon in Cornwall is 13th and Exeter in Devon is 14th.
The University of Plymouth, which is publishing the figures, is investigating the reasons for them.
The new statistics, to be released by the university's Plymouth Business School, look at the amount of voluntary agreements for bankruptcy or insolvency in 2006.
In Plymouth that year there were 819 agreements, working out at 0.43% of its population. Torbay came second with 448 cases, or 0.42% of its population.
Taunton Deane saw agreements for 0.38%, Caradon 0.37% and Exeter 0.36%.
One of the reasons given for the region's poor performance is its high levels of deprivation in some parts, as well as differences between earnings and house prices.
Professor Peter Gripaios of the business school said: "High house prices can lead to indebtedness. It's very costly to get on the housing ladder, it's also very costly to pay rent."
He added: "There may well be other factors.
"In Torbay, the importance of employment in tourism may lead to more bankruptcy.
"In Plymouth, various thing need to be explored, possibly even the role of the military."
BBC South West business correspondent Neil Gallacher said the military angle considered how troops were demobbed.
He said: "One possibility is that people tend to come out of defence jobs without much preparation for the financial realities of life in civvy street."
He added: "These figures are not evidence of the credit crunch because they cover the period before it started.
"But eventually the belt-tightening that's now going on in the economy will feed through into these figures and almost certainly reveal insolvencies running at a significantly higher level."
The university said it was planning further research.