ONE in ten people in France lives in solitude and a quarter have only the most basic links to family or friends, a new report has revealed.
The Fondation de France estimates that four million adults have no contact with other people, either through work, family, friends or local clubs.
The charity's study found that the problem was just as widespread in towns and cities as it was in rural areas, and does not just affect older people: a third of those living in solitude are under 50.
In more than half of the cases, people find themselves alone from one day to the next, after a death, the break-up of a relationship or when a child leaves the family home.
The report found a person's income was a major factor in their likelihood to become more inward-looking.
Respondents with a monthly income of just €1,000 were four times more likely to be lonely than those earning €4,000.
The issue of solitude came up in 2003 after the deadly heatwave in which thousands of old people died at home alone.
Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux last month announced the launch of an Opération Tranquillité Seniors scheme.
The project will see army reserves make regular visits to vulnerable and isolated elderly people - similar to the Opération Tranquillité Vacances where police carry out checks on empty holiday homes.
The Fondation de France study was based on a poll of 4,000 people nationwide.
Yves Roland - Fotolia.com