Loneliness is a growing occurrence in an ever more atomised world.

More people are living alone, increasingly existing in isolated furrows.

The subject of loneliness came up recently in relation to a new project being launched. There was an instant leap among the audience to link loneliness with being old.

Yes, no doubt loneliness does hit older people, who may get cut off from community due to physical or familial situations.

It is a sobering thought, getting older, as increasing numbers that we have known die off.

But loneliness is certainly not restricted to the elderly - all ages can get cut off.

What of the young people who feel alone with nowhere to turn - under exam or caring pressures?

Loneliness is something that probably hits everyone at some point in their lives. A family might break up in acrimonious circumstances. Unemployment can take away work-based companionship. Then there are the increasingly atomised forms of computer-based work. The traditional workplace with the travel to and from it as well as associated social interaction is becoming less prevalent.

The social media world can disguise loneliness. Quite often people post comments that make you think, haven't you got someone to discuss that with? Why put it out there for all to see?

Loneliness is not simply about an absence of people. Individuals can feel lonely in the largest of family settings, alienated and unheard. There is loneliness in marriage.

And being alone is not loneliness. Many like being alone, others crave more time on their own. Loneliness is when the individual does not like being alone and feels isolated and cut off.

This can lead to mental health issues. A growing phenomenon in our society.

Thankfully, loneliness is beginning to be recognised and addressed. There are groups being established to help out. Places where people can go. But everyone can do a bit by just being a little more sensitive to others.

Be prepared to give that time to listen. Don't dismiss people easily and move on. Don't judge others.

If we all make an effort and reach out to our neighbours in the community then things like loneliness will be less prevalent.

Yes, we need schemes to address loneliness but all can do a bit to be more friendly to those we meet on a daily basis.

  • Paul Donovan is a Redbridge councillor for Wanstead village and blogger. See paulfdonovan.blogspot.com.