MORE than half of people are worried they won't be able to see their family and friends over the Christmas period, while a quarter fear they will spend it alone.

In the survey, carried out by the Campaign to End Loneliness, 59 per cent of adults said they are concerned about not seeing loved ones over the festive period.

It also found 54 per cent fear they won't be able to see older relatives as they are scared of putting them at risk, which will further increase their risk of loneliness.

The poll also revealed 27 per cent of people are worried about spending the festive period alone.

The Campaign to End Loneliness said if this issue is not address it could have a large impact on mental and physical health services.

Kate Shurety, executive director, said: “If the issue is not adequately addressed in every UK community, we are concerned that there could be a timebomb being set that will impact more broadly on mental and physical health services.

"We are particularly concerned about the effect Covid-19 is having on the extreme sense of isolation felt by many groups, including people in the shielding category, those feeling vulnerable, people who live alone with no social connections, care homes residents, or carers struggling due to minimal support or respite.

“We would ask governments when making any future Covid-19 restrictions to give due consideration, where possible, to allow people to form a safe extended household if they live alone or are carers, and have safe face-to-face visits within care homes.”

Eight of of ten people surveyed said they are worried about the loneliness of vulnerable older people; those with long-term health conditions, who are bereaved or who live in care homes.

The charity’s report, Promising Approaches Revisited, is calling for increased government funding into services addressing loneliness and isolation, and bereavement support services.

And it wants the UK governments to ensure national strategies are “loneliness-proofed”, including coronavirus recovery plans.

Previous research has linked loneliness to an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, depression, and poor cognitive function among older adults.

Jeremy Bacon, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)’s older people lead, said: “Counsellors and psychotherapists working with older clients report concern that the narrative of the pandemic lumps older people into an homogenous at-risk group whose shielding and risk status results in isolation being equated with safety and well-being.

“Our understanding of loneliness and how we address it, must take account of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across the four nations and in every community.

“Restrictions on physical contact, the closure of community venues and services providing support and companionship, and the fears of those most vulnerable to the virus, inevitably increase the risks of social, emotional and existential loneliness.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to tackling loneliness among people of all ages and backgrounds.

“Since the start of the pandemic, over £18 million of the Government’s £750 million charity funding package has gone specifically towards reducing loneliness and over £38 million has gone to organisations supporting people with their mental health.

“We also convened the Tackling Loneliness Network – featuring high-profile charities and businesses – to explore new ways to connect groups at risk of loneliness and isolation, and relaunched our #LetsTalkLoneliness campaign to help tackle the stigma.”