One in 14 applicants for high-interest payday loans are professionals in well-paid jobs such as doctors, lawyers and accountants, a study has shown.

Short-term online lender said 7% of payday loan applications last year came from people commanding generous salaries.

White collar workers made up half of those applying for the 35-day loan service, in which people borrow between £100 and £1,000 to tide them over until their next pay packet arrives.

Of those white collar applicants, 28% worked in management, with more than a quarter (26%) holding down jobs in sales and marketing. founder Jason Gardiner said the analysis contradicted the traditionally view that payday loans are only used by the low-paid or jobless.

Mr Gardiner said: "Seven per cent of applicants are in high-end professions such as law, accountancy and medicine and this just goes to show that, regardless of your income, there can be times when people need a short-term loan to see them through until their next pay day.

"People we've spoken to in these professions have stated that typically they've applied for a short-term loan due to an unforeseen cost increase, something which can happen to anyone regardless of the size of their salary. Half of all applicants are from white collar backgrounds, including managers, salesmen and marketers, which reinforces just how widespread payday loaning is becoming."

Consumer Focus figures indicate that the payday loans market increased from 300,000 borrowers in 2006 to 1.9 million in 2010.

The industry has been accused of preying on those in financial trouble, prompting the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate whether some firms target people unsuitable for credit and are rolling over loans so that the charges escalate and they become unaffordable.

Payday lenders argue that they offer a much-needed service to customers and their high-interest charges are often more transparent than those of mainstream banks.