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One in eight adults do not have any close friends and almost half feel lonely at times, research suggests.

The 13% of us without a good pal – about seven million people in the UK – is up from 10% in 2014 and 2015.

Younger people were the most likely to feel isolated, with 65% of 16 to 24-year-olds saying they were lonely at least some of the time – compared to 32% for over-65s.

One in six of more than 5,000 people questioned even admitted they never or rarely felt loved.

Charity Relate, which produced the report with Relationships Scotland, said it feared dependence on social media, lack of work/life balance and the pressures of raising a family could be affecting people’s friendships.

Chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “It might seem our social media friend count is high but what is the quality of those friendships really like?

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“Social relationships are essential to our health and wellbeing. We mustn’t take them for granted.”

As well as being bad for our mental state, loneliness is worse for our physical health than being obese, a 2015 study found.

Coleen Nolan says: I always say with loneliness that things can get better. Just do one thing that opens up a new experience or opportunity and it leads to more.