The aggregate deficit of 7,800 defined benefit schemes monitored by the Pension Protection Fund increased by £58.5bn in December.
The lifeboat fund said the shortfall soared from £136.0bn at the end of November to £194.5bn at the end of December.
And it said overall scheme funding had deteriorated significantly since December 2007 - when its PPF7800 index recorded a surplus of £11.7bn.
The PPF also found the total deficit of schemes in deficit had worsened from £155bn at the end of November 2008 to £209.5bn at the end of December 2008 - a decline of £54.6bn.
This is in stark contrast to December 2007, when the total deficit of all schemes in deficit stood at £66.7bn.
The PPF said the total surplus of schemes in December 2008 fell to £15.1bn, down from £19.0bn at the end of November.
Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman Steve Webb said: "A gaping chasm has opened up in Britain's company pension funds in the last year."
He added: "Keeping these funds topped up will put a huge burden on businesses which are already struggling because of the economic downturn.
"The government needs to look carefully at the rules on pension scheme funding levels to make sure that otherwise viable businesses are not forced to the wall because of short-term pressures on their pension funds."IFAonline
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