Professor Stokes-Lampard encouraged people to be "good citizens" and speak to friends and neighbours in "moments of meaningful connection". Picture: PxHere

London - Being lonely at Christmas is as bad for your health as suffering from a chronic disease, Britain’s top GP has warned.

Research has shown that lonely people are around 40 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs.

She stressed that said Christmas can "amplify" feelings of social isolation. Half a million older people are expected to be on their own over the festive period, while studies have shows one in 20 adults in England often or always feel lonely.

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." 

Professor Stokes-Lampard encouraged people to be "good citizens" and speak to friends and neighbours in "moments of meaningful connection".

She said this should include "not just saying hi or waving to the neighbour but actually saying “How are things going?” Having a little chat. Checking in on people in more than a trivial way."

Dr Amanda Thompsell, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, is calling for old and young people to swap skills to tackle loneliness. That could see youngsters taught how to sew on buttons, while teaching pensioners about technology.

Daily Mail