LONELINESS is a warning sign that should not be ignored – in the same way that feeling hungry signals a need for food.
"Loneliness is a warning sign for people to address their social activity and contacts. Given its link to a variety of health concerns, people should act," advises Eamon Timmins of Age Action Ireland.
He admits it is "not easy but people have to make contact with neighbours, friends, community and parish groups, active retirement clubs, Age Action etc".
"It may be that you have to contact a group and ask about the possibility of a lift to meetings/activities. It may involve the cost of phoning friends to re-establish and maintain contact," he added.
"But it is important that people realise that they have to take action. Too many people depend on others to help them and, unfortunately, that help is not forthcoming. The other side of the equation is that community groups have to examine the issue in the context of their local community.
"When existing events are run, does anyone consider inviting people who may be isolated or lonely, and providing a lift for them (this is especially relevant over Christmas)?
"Do new groups or activities have to be organised to meet local needs? Do sports clubs organise events or facilitate their older members and past members? Loneliness is an issue which must be tackled at a community level, street by street, townland by townland. We all have a role to play in addressing it."
He was speaking after a new poll of GPs in the UK, carried out for the Campaign to End Loneliness, found that 76pc of family doctors report that between one and five patients a day attend their surgery primarily because they are lonely.