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 the Royal College of GPs, warned that 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,” she told the Press Association.
“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.”
She added: “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.
“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.”
The comments comes after figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown how the loneliness epidemic is sweeping Britain.
Figures reveal that both adults and children are affected.
One in every 20 (5%) English adults reports feeling lonely often or always, according to ONS data released in April.
An additional 16% said they felt lonely some of the time and almost a quarter said they felt lonely occasionally.
And figures released earlier this month suggest 14% of children aged 10 to 12 say they often feel lonely.
Among young people aged 16 to 24 from across England, one in 10 (9.8%) reported feeling lonely “often”, the ONS said.
In January, Prime Minister Theresa May described loneliness as a “sad reality of modern life” for too many people as she announced a range of measures including the appointment of a minister with a specific brief to lead the Government’s response.