ISOLATION is causing people serious health problems – which experts say could be as bad as damage caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Pockets of loneliness can be found across Oxfordshire, according to a county council report. They include one of Oxford’s wealthiest areas.

People at the highest risk of loneliness statistically can be found in Blackbird Leys, Wood Farm, Barton, St Clements and Cowley.

Perhaps more surprisingly, given its residents’ relative wealth to other parts of Oxfordshire, people in Jericho are also said to be a significant risk of loneliness.

They were all included in work by Age UK, which said they were in the top 20 per cent of areas which have the highest risk of loneliness.

Didcot South ward, in South Oxfordshire, is also included.

Lonelier people are at more risk of visiting their doctor and of falls, using more medication and needing more long-term health care.

The figures were included in the county council’s Joint Spatial Needs Assessment report, which it completes every year.

Laura Veitch, the Archway Foundation's communications coordinator, said the charity was helping people with a variety of needs.

She said: “It could be anything from health concerns that make it difficult to get out and about. People on waiting lists are often in outlying villages who can’t got out very easily. Sometimes they might need special transport.”

She added: “Also people just move away more from their parents so the family networks are more broken up – but it could be mental health problems that make them very anxious.”

The charity runs a variety of social groups in Oxford and Abingdon, including some for people aged between 18 and 30 in the city.

The Archway Foundation said it has seen a rapid expansion over recent years in response to growing need.

But it still has a significant waiting list of people asking for help, despite having more than 100 volunteers.

In an effort to stem loneliness in Bicester and Banbury, Cherwell District Council recently launched an app for residents to find activities available in their area.

They include games and bingo, karate classes and activity classes for parents and children under five-years-old.

Its council leader Barry Wood said: “Nine million people in the UK say they are lonely, and that’s backed up by research we carried out with Oxford University, showing that one in six Bicester residents feel isolated. This can have a major impact on our mental health."

In January, Mr Wood added: “This is not acceptable, and especially disappointing when we consider that many of these people could be missing out on activities that are taking place on their doorsteps.”

Theresa May launched the Government's loneliness strategy in October.