The heartbreaking extent of pandemic-era loneliness has been laid bare in a new survey.

More than a third of adults haven’t hugged somebody else in six months, with one in four reporting they’ve gone a year without a cuddle.

Research by cross-party think tank Demos revealed 32% of British adults are worried there are fewer opportunities to meet people in the ‘new normal’.

Until March 2020, few had heard the phrase ‘social-distancing’, but for many it has become a reality in more ways than one.

Despite the gradual reopening of society, many adults feels they are more isolated from those around them than before Covid-19 arrived in our lives.

Around one in seven adults said they have not been asked how their day was or talked to their neighbours in the past six months or more.

There was some cause for optimism in the findings, however: 23% of adults said they feel there are more opportunities to develop new personal relationships now as things reopen.

It’s not the first study which has got to the heart of the less tangible toll of lockdowns.

In April, the Office for National Statistics reported that 7.2% of the adult population (about 3.7 million adults) felt lonely ‘often’ or ‘always’ between October 2020 and February 2021.

Research found areas with more young people tended to be lonelier, perhaps driven up by students away from home during the public health crisis.

The same study also found more densely populated areas were more likely to have higher levels of anxiety, with respondents presumably concerned about coming into contact with an infected person.

A survey released by Yougov this week found many age groups are still avoiding crowds, although only a quarter of people under 24 are continuing to take that precaution.

Polly Mackenzie, chief executive at Demos, said the pandemic showed that strong community ties are ‘vital to our resilience and strength as a society’.

She said: ‘Our new research out today worryingly shows that these gains we’ve made in community relationships earlier in the pandemic are in danger of being lost.’

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