The stress from feeling disconnected can lead to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
Loneliness can have many causes, from living alone to poor health, being a full-time career, divorce, or the most common – losing a loved one.
But there are things you can do to start to connect with other people, says ex-Olympic champion Dorothy Shirley-Emerson, 80, who battled with loneliness after her husband died.
Get out and socialize
This can be far easier said than done, but small steps can take you a long way over a period of time.
Just do what is comfortable to you.
‘The first steps are hard – you might not feel like you want to get out and socialise, but you have to make that brave first move,’ says Dorothy.
Try something new
Maybe there is something you’ve always wanted to try – you may have a hidden skill or talent which is waiting to unleash itself.
If you don’t try, you will never know.
It may require some effort but Dorothy’s mantra is: ‘I’m glad I tried.’
Repeating this gives her the courage needed to go out, speak to new people and try new things even when she doesn’t feel like it.
Talk about it
Don’t be afraid to tell others how you feel, they may be able to help.
If there isn’t someone who you can talk to, Dorothy suggests getting in touch with a befriending service like The Silver Line.
Call on someone you know to try out that new thing or go to that new place with you, even if only for the first few times for moral support.
This will give you some much-needed confidence.
But if there is no one to go with you, don’t let that put you off.
There are things you can do to reduce any anxieties you might have, like ringing ahead.
‘Most groups are very welcoming and can pair you up with someone understanding,’ says Dorothy.
Use your skills
We’re all good at something, whether it’s organising, cooking, gardening, DIY or making cups of tea.
Think about what you once enjoyed doing or would like to try.
Believe in yourself
Be confident and brave.
Dorothy Says, ‘Loneliness can eat away at your confidence, but you’re an amazing person who people will love to meet.
'You just need to go out and find them!’