Lonely people are around 40 per cent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke over the festive season, said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs.
We already know that loneliness can have a detrimental effect on us mentally and physically, but Dr Stokes-Lampard says that those feelings of social isolation can be "amplified" by Christmas.
Half a million older people are expected to be on their own tomorrow, while one in 20 Brits suffers from feelings of loneliness all year round.
And it's not just adults either.
One in ten children also report of feeling lonely on a regular basis.
Professor Stokes-Lampard said: "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 amplifies these things.
"As a GP, we see the adverse impact these things have on people's health. These are as bad as chronic diseases to your health."
A study by charity Age UK has found that for 530,000 over-65s, Christmas is "just another day", with many grieving lost ones.
Abie Taylor-Spencer, a mental health expert, previously told The Sun Online: "One of the reasons loneliness is so bad for us is that it makes it harder for us to control our habits and behaviour.
"Tests by US psychologists showed that the expectation of isolation reduces our willpower and perseverance and makes it harder to regulate our behaviour.
"Lonely middle-aged adults drink more alcohol, have unhealthier diets and partake in less exercise than the socially contented."
And tests have also shown that loneliness can affect the immune and cardiovascular systems placing individuals at risk of health problems.
"A proven consequence of isolation for physiological resilience and recovery has been linked to the basic human need for sleep – lonely people experience more difficulties sleeping and sleep deprivation is known to have the same effects on metabolic, neural and hormonal regulation as ageing," said Abie
"Lonely people are more likely to suffer from more depressive symptoms as they have been reported to be less happy, less satisfied and more pessimistic.
"It has also been found that loneliness puts individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline and have a 64 per cent increased chance of developing clinical dementia."
WHERE TO GET HELP
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- Beat, www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk, 0808 801 0667
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Hector's House, www.hectorshouse.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
So, what can we do about it?
Well, Prof Stokes-Lampard is encouraging more people to be "good citizens" and speak to friends and neighbours.
She wants more of us to go beyond simply saying "hi" to the people we live near, and to actually create a meaningful connection by asking how people are.
“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.”
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.
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