HUNDREDS of thousands of Scots are in danger or dying from loneliness.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for many – but the loneliest for around 184,000 older people in Scotland.

New research from Age Scotland shows the extent of the country’s loneliness epidemic, and how it can be most acute during the festive season.

The overwhelming majority of respondents (84 per cent) agreed that Christmas could be the toughest time of year after losing someone they loved.

Seventy-fourper cent thought it was the hardest time for someone to be on their own.

The research was carried out by Kantar for Age Scotland and its sister charity, Age UK.

Studies show that loneliness increases the risk of death by 10 per cent, and is as bad as a 15-a-day smoking habit. It can exacerbate heart disease, blood clots and cancer, harms mental health and doubles the risk of developing dementia.

Now Age Scotland is launching its ‘No One Should Have No One’ campaign with sister charity Age UK, to shine a light on how tough this time of year can be for many older people, especially if they are on their own having lost their partner. While most of us are looking forward to celebrating with loved ones, one in 10 over-65s in Scotland (around 106,000) say they will eat dinner alone on Christmas Day.

One in six older people year. The main reason was “it brings back too many memories of people who have passed away and happier times” (32 per cent). Twelve per cent cent agreed that they often feel more lonely at Christmas than at any time of year.

Almost one in four said they were not looking forward to Christmas this said they would be alone, while 11 per cent said they had no one to spend the holiday with.