Figures from the Department of Work and Pensions obtained by the over-60s campaign group Silver Voices showed that around 87% of senior citizens are still on the old state pension rate of £141.85 a week or less.
The new state pension only applies to those who reached the state pension age after 5 April 2016.
Campaigners last night said the analysis showed the UK’s older citizens are far worse than generally understood.
Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices said: “These figures are truly shocking and show why millions of older people are struggling to make ends meet in the cost-of-living crisis.”
“Basing support packages on a top pension rate that so few receive, and hiding away statistics that reveal up to 4 million pensioners receive a state pension of less than £140 per week are the politics of denial.”
“After a lifetime of tax and NI contributions, every senior citizen should be entitled to a living pension which does not require the benefits system to top it up.”
“Criticising a possible double-digit rise in the triple lock formula ignores the real cash crisis faced by millions, as 10% of £140 per week is only £14, which will scarcely scratch the surface of the problem.”
“The imperative is for a big flat-rate cash boost to pensions now; anything less will condemn millions to a hungry, cold and cheerless winter.”
Silver Voices made a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Work and Pensions to identify the level of pension payments.
In response, officials pointed to figures published on the department’s website.
According to the campaign group’s analysis of the figures, only 740,000 out of the 12.4 million state pensioners received the full new state pension.
Only 1.6 million were on the new state pension system at all.
Around 10.8 million state pensioners were on the old state pension, with only 7.1 million receiving the £141.85 full rate.
Silver Voices concluded that 3.7 million older people receive less than £141.85 a week. The majority of this group are thought to be women.
Former Tory pensions minister Baroness Altmann said: “What these figures show is that millions of pensioners are far from well off.”
Sir Steve Webb, a former Lib Dem pensions minister who is now a partner at consultants LCP, said: “The large majority of today’s pensioners retired under the rules of the old state pension system.”
“Many of them will get less than the full standard flat rate in the new system.”
“This could be because they were members of a company pension scheme and paid a lower rate of National Insurance contributions, were self-employed and built up a limited state pension or were married women who are getting a pension based on their husband’s contributions.”
“Over the coming years, this balance will shift and more and more people will come under the new system and will receive the standard flat rate pension.”
Stuart Powell, finance expert at Ocean Mortgages, said: “This is shocking but not surprising.”
“We produce a State Benefit calculator for every client who approaches us for Equity Release advice.”
“It’s extremely rare that we see clients on a pension of over £141.85 per week.”
“There are many pensioners who do not claim their other benefits, including the single person Council Tax discount.”
“In an economy where pensioners are struggling to heat their homes or eat well, more must be done to ensure they receive everything they are entitled to.”
Certified money coach Fanny Snaith said: “This is shocking and wrong. Why should the new rate not apply to people who retired prior to 5th April 2016?”
“How are they any different from those who retired after that date? With the rise in costs everywhere recently, £40 a week is critical. This needs changing.”
Joshua Gerstler, financial planner at The Orchard Practice, told people not to rely on the Department of Work and Pensions.
“If you think you’re not getting as much from the State Pension as you are entitled to, contact the Department for Work and Pensions,” he said.”
“But do not wait for them to contact you. Do not rely on them to be proactive. And do not rely on the State Pension to give you a comfortable retirement, as it won’t.”
“Look at your personal pensions and whatever you are currently putting away each month, and try to put in more.”
“You deserve to have the retirement you want. But you need to take charge and be in control. Nobody is going to do it for you.”
The analysis follows the controversy over Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision to suspend the pensions “Triple Lock” mechanism linking the annual rise to inflation this year.
His move meant state pension payments increased by only 3.1% in April. He has committed to reinstating the link next year, leading to an expected rise of around 10%.
Last night, a DWP spokesman said: “This year we will spend over £110 billion on the State Pension.
“The full yearly amount of the basic State Pension is over £2,300 higher than in 2010 and the vast majority of people in receipt of it also get additional income from either an occupational/private pension, if they were contracted out, or the Additional State Pension – and many get a combination of the two.”