The massive overhang of public and private debt in advanced capitalist countries (public debt to GDP levels exceeds the critical 90% threshold while "private debt is showing a marked upward trend and remains near pre-crisis levels") and its damaging effect on growth are analysed in this paper by Reinhart and Rogoff (referenced in the Irish Economy blog).
The impairment of growth by debt overhang is both marked and long-term. It is made clear too that causality does not run from growth to debt "the multi-decade long duration of past public debt overhang episodes suggests that at very least the association is not due to recessions at business cycle frequencies."
Unnervingly, even continued ability to access capital markets at relatively low interest rates by debtor countries does not ameliorate the growth-killing capacities of large debt overhangs. Consoling thoughts that at least the UK took a Euro-use opt out are ill-founded insofar as "growth-reducing effects of high public debt are apparently not transmitted exclusively through high real interest rates."