A NEW guide to combat loneliness among people of all ages has been launched in a County Durham village.

Welcoming Lanchester is a free publication is being distributed to every home in the parish and contains important information about local services, groups, clubs, organisations and amenities that can help people connect with one another and get the support they need.

The guide has been created by a special working group comprising members of the Lanchester Medical Centre Patient Participation Group and the Lanchester Partnership, with support from Mid Durham Area Action Partnership (AAP) and Lanchester Parish Council.

Working group member David Friesner said: “One of the key aims of the guide is to provide information about loneliness in a way that helps raise awareness, understanding and a sense of ownership among the community.

“It’s all about starting conversations and bringing people together to make a positive difference.”

The group realised that loneliness can affect anyone and the often-held view that it is almost exclusive to older people is wrong.

This is backed up by the BBC Loneliness Experiment Survey 2018, which found that young people are the group who say they feel the loneliest.

Forty per cent of 16 to 24-year-old said they often or very often feel lonely, compared with 27 per cent of over 75s.

To reflect this, Welcoming Lanchester is divided into different sections, with chapters aimed at older and younger people, along with information for families, new people moving into the area and those living in more isolated rural locations.

There is also a section about the benefits of volunteering and advice on where to find out about opportunities in the area.

On Thursday, residents, local dignitaries, health professionals and representatives from Durham County Council, community groups and charities gathered to celebrate its official launch.

Fellow member Marian Morrison said: “Although Lanchester is a bustling village with many clubs and community activities, loneliness still exists here.

“Loneliness can affect us all, regardless of age or whether we live alone, and it’s vital we do as much as we can to ensure everyone feels a part of our community.”

Councillor Lucy Hovvels, from Durham County, said: “Loneliness is a national issue and it is good to see its profile has been raised in recent years.”