Plight of the 'chronically lonely' highlighted
18 October 2013 Last updated at 21:16 BST
It is a source of national shame that 800,000 older people in England say they are chronically lonely, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
In a speech he warned that loneliness was as harmful as "smoking 15 cigarettes a day" and "worse than obesity" because of the health risks.
He also suggested Britain should learn from Asian cultures, where there is "reverence and respect for older people."
Mark Easton reports.