Christmas 'amplifies' feelings of loneliness
The festive period can "amplify" feelings of loneliness, a top doctor warned as she encouraged people to connect with others in their communities.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of Britain's Royal College of GPs, warned loneliness and social isolation can be as bad for a person's health as chronic diseases.
She encouraged people to be "good citizens" and connect with friends and neighbours in a "meaningful" way.
"Any festival or gathering where people get together can extenuate or magnify feelings of being isolated or lonely. People usually are already vulnerable and also it's darker, the whole SAD (seasonal affective disorder) thing about short days, amplify these things.
"As a GP we see people in their communities, we are part of their communities and we see the adverse impact these things have on people's health - these are as bad as chronic diseases to your health.
"At a time of celebration and joy, particularly with our own loved ones, but also looking a little bit wider to, to be great citizens. Moments of meaningful connection is the language we use. Not just saying 'Hi' or waving to the neighbour but actually saying 'How are you doing?', 'How are things going?'
"Having a little chat. Checking in on people in more than a trivial way. As a healthcare professional we always feel like we spend our days doing good stuff but this is about being a good citizen and part of society," she said.
"In a world where we've got more connection by social media than ever before, we also hear and see other people are less connected with somebody that can hold your hand in a time of trouble."