The latest SME Finance Monitor found 60% of SMEs that applied for a loan or overdraft for the first time in 2013 were unsuccessful, compared with 51% in the previous year.
The study by the BDRC Continental research agency found around seven out of 10 of all loan and overdraft applications made in each quarter since the series began in 2011 secured funding.
However, while 96% of applications to renew an existing facility in the 18 months to December 2013 were successful, only 48% of those for new funds were approved.
The findings may lend weight to claims that banks have become too risk averse in their approach to funding SMEs in the wake of the financial crisis.
Only 13% of SMEs were aware of their right to appeal if their funding application was rejected.