Our call for kindness to combat loneliness as No. of isolated individuals grow

But as we look forward to being with loved ones over this festive period, the Sunday Express is calling on readers to spare a thought for those for whom life has taken a different turn. And there are many.

Around seven out of every hundred people in Great Britain always or often feel lonely, according to the ONS. That’s nearly four million people in England, Scotland and Wales for whom Christmas is something that happens for and to “other people”.

Sadly, that number is growing. The national lockdowns introduced to combat the pandemic tested emotional and mental health boundaries like never before. Since the first one, half a million more people have joined the ranks of the lonely.

You might think these people are easy to spot. The widowed neighbour down the road whose children are too busy to visit, or the pensioner who can be found sitting at the same park bench every day.

But the mantle of loneliness takes all shapes. And, as winter draws on and the days get shorter, some people find they barely leave their homes.

Watching other people live seemingly normal lives can be soul-destroying. But it carries health risks, too. According to recent research, the physical impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.

That’s why the Sunday Express has joined the Campaign to End Loneliness to deliver a simple message: reach out.

Old friends whose names still languish in your phone book may represent happy, albeit distant, memories. But circumstances can change. Divorce, depression and illness all take their toll, and that old friend who you remember as once being so full of life can be living a very different existence now. If you have a spare moment, give them a call to say hello.

Kate Jopling, from the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “Loneliness can affect any of us at any time of the year, but it can be a particular issue for many of us at times where there is a big focus on getting together with family and friends.

“The reality is that many of us don’t pay as much attention to our relationships as we ought to, and most of us are probably guilty of letting friendships drift when we didn’t mean to. At the same time we can probably all think of old friends we’d love to hear from.

“This campaign is a great prompt to use this season of goodwill to take action in our own lives to get back in touch with someone we’ve lost touch with, or to reconnect with something that we love.”

Picking up that phone only costs time, so take five minutes and dial that number. Your call may just make an old friend happy. Or it could just make all the difference to their day, and even to their life.

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