One in three people over 50 battle loneliness, fuelled in part by a rise in so-called "silver splitter" divorces, a new study has found.
Research published as part of David Cameron's plan to measure the nation's "happiness" indicates that almost seven million members of the baby-boomer generation and above admit feeling lonely, the Telegraph reported.
Among people over 80, the proportion rises to almost half, including a large minority who admit they feel lonely much of the time.
But campaign groups warned that the study suggests that the generation now approaching retirement will prove to be a "loneliness time bomb".
The study, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows that loneliness is most acute among those who live alone or have long-standing illnesses which prompt then to become more isolated.
But the report also draws attention to the role of divorce and separation among over 50s as a major contributory factor.
Using data gathered as part of the English Longitudinal Study on Ageing which follows the lives of more than 10,000 English people throughout older age, ONS analysts found that 34 percent of people aged 52 and over openly described themselves as feeling lonely some or much of the time.
Among over 80s the proportion rises to 46 percent, including 17 percent who said that they felt lonely much of the time.
Almost six out of 10 of those samples who lived on their own spoke of feeling lonely, the same proportion of those who described them selves as being in poor health who also felt acute isolation.
Unsurprisingly those who had been widowed were most likely to feel lonely some or much of the time - 63 percent.
But those who had been divorced or separated were next in line, with 51 percent reporting loneliness marking their lives.
By contrast only just over four out of 10 of those who had always been single said they felt lonely.
The figures show that consistently higher proportions of women report feeling loneliness more acutely than men.
The ONS said that this may be because, as women live longer, a higher proportion experience being widowed than men.
Official figures published last year showed that the numbers of According to the Office for National Statistics the number of so-called "silver splitters" - older people getting divorced from their husband or wife had almost doubled in a decade.
Laura Ferguson, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, who supports greater services for older people, said social changes meant that Britain could soon be facing a loneliness epidemic. (ANI)