One elderly person in ten has no close friends at all but it is the middle aged who feel most lonely, according to official figures.
Charities have warned that older people who are living for longer could be “living a lonelier life”.
Data from the Office for National Statistics reveals those aged 75 and over were least likely to have at least one close companion. But those aged 45 to 54 were likely to feel lonely with nearly half saying they met socially with friends, family or colleagues less than once a week.
The figures on “inequality in social capital by age and sex” released today also found that young people engaged less with their neighbours and cared much less about politics than their elders.
Simon Bottery, policy director of older people’s charity Independent Age, said: “These figures on loneliness are very concerning, partly on a simple human level because we don’t want neighbours and friends to be feeling that way.
“As individuals we have got to try even harder to keep an eye out for neighbours and friends and as families we have got to try and do that as well and stay in contact with elderly relatives.
“At a government level, it is important that we see it as a health problem and that local authorities and the NHS in particular take action to identify people who are lonely and isolated.”
The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to raise awareness on the issue of loneliness, which affects more than 90,000 people in the region, since February 2014.