Companies are being urged to promote the new Befriending Scheme to retired employees after new research shows thousands of retired licensed drinks workers feel "socially isolated".

The research by Licensed Trade Charity's 'Needs Research and Review' showed that almost 4,500 people who have previously worked in the licensed drinks trade feel socially isolated, due to having been socially active throughout their working lives.

Supporter of people in the licensed trade Support & Care is therefore urging companies to help by promoting the scheme to retired employees. The telephone scheme offers people support through weekly phone calls and currently has four people employed as Befrienders.

Director of marketing and charity services for Support & Care, Liz Gaffer, said: "It is clear that not enough is being done to support people living in social isolation. Our research found 4,403 people identifying themselves as being socially isolated, but we believe the true figure is far higher because we are reliant on asking people to identify themselves as being lonely and socially isolated.

"Companies could play a vital role in getting the message to retired licensees, and indeed those nearing retirement, that there is help and they do not have to live out their retirement in loneliness."

The research comes after BBC reported that loneliness is as bad for health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.