Modern life is leaving people feeling increasingly isolated and lonely, a mental health charity said today.

One in 10 often feel lonely (11%) and half think that people are getting lonelier in general (48%), according to research released by the Mental Health Foundation.

More people are living alone than ever with the percentage of households occupied by one person doubling from 6% in 1972 to 12% in 2008.

The divorce rate also almost doubled in the past 50 years with figures showing one in three people would like to live closer to their family (35%).

The research, published in The Lonely Society?, illustrated that feeling lonely is not only common among the elderly.

Women are more likely than men to feel lonely sometimes (38% compared with 30%), according to the report.

People feel pressure to be "productive and busy", and as a consequence neglect vital relationships with friends and family, researchers said.

Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: "Changes to the way we live are putting an increasing number of people at risk of loneliness, which can lead to health problems if chronic.

"People who find themselves feeling lonely should not have to feel uncomfortable talking about it or asking for help.

"By raising awareness of the subject we hope to tackle the stigma attached to loneliness and help individuals who are feeling lonely to connect with others."

Christopher Cloke, of the NSPCC, added: "Last year ChildLine received nearly 10,000 calls from children saying they felt lonely - an increase of 60% from five years ago.

"Loneliness has always been a part of some children's lives but it is deeply worrying that more children are contacting us about this. In the worst cases children became so desperate that they self-harm or even contemplate suicide."

* To read the report and for practical advice on how to combat loneliness, visit