Despite widespread awareness about Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer payment system and digital currency, most Americans do not trust it, according to a new survey conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Yodlee, a Redwood City, Calif.-based financial technology company.

Although 48 percent of American adults said they understand what Bitcoin is, most of them do not trust it enough to invest in it, and while Bitcoin’s value has seen huge gains over the past year, Americans are still uncertain of its reliability and usefulness as a mainstream currency, the survey, conducted in December among 2,039 adults aged 18 and older, revealed.

“The financial industry benefits greatly from disruptive technology, but security is unfortunately a bigger challenge than some new financial innovators expect.” Tim O’Brien, Yodlee’s senior vice president of operations and information security, said in statement. “Bitcoin has addressed some major opportunities in the financial system, but the vulnerability of some Bitcoin exchanges, along with the currency’s overall volatility, are still serious issues.”

The survey, which showed that only 13 percent of respondents would choose Bitcoin as an investment over gold, also revealed that an increased awareness of Bitcoin corresponded to reduced trust in it.

Among the respondents, young adults tended to be the biggest Bitcoin supporters, with 20 percent of Americans aged between 18 and 34 who knew about Bitcoin, stating they would choose the currency over gold as an investment option, while only 8 percent of those aged above 55 preferred Bitcoin over gold.

Asked if government should regulate Bitcoin, 45 percent of Americans said they were unsure. Among respondents with a firm opinion, 44 percent said government should be allowed to regulate the digital currency, while 56 percent said no government should regulate the currency.

In addition, the survey also showed male respondents were more aware about Bitcoin than females, with only 35 percent of women across the country stating they know what Bitcoin is, compared to 63 percent of men claiming knowledge of the digital currency. However, this increased awareness did not translate into confidence about Bitcoin’s value, according to the survey, with only 14 percent of men and 10 percent of women stating they would prefer Bitcoin as an investment over gold.

Here are some additional findings from the survey:

- 61 percent of respondents with an annual household income of $100,000 or more have heard of Bitcoin, while only 20 percent of them said they would choose it as an investment over gold.

- The Northeast is America’s most pro-Bitcoin region. Fifty-one percent of adults in this region know what Bitcoin is while 19 percent of those Bitcoin-aware people said they would choose to invest in it over gold.

“Bitcoin will be hard for consumers to understand and trust on a large scale until secure, user-friendly tools and services emerge to make it as convenient and safe as possible to use,” O’Brien said.