One in four adults has not been hugged for more than a year, a survey has found. 

The research, carried out by Demos, suggests people are less likely to build new relationships, with 32 per cent of adults feeling there are fewer opportunities to do so than when the nation first locked down.

But the thinktank’s polling of 1,000 UK adults in May found that 23 per cent believed there are more opportunities as society opens up from Covid restrictions.

It also showed that 64 per cent of respondents said they had not made a new friend for six months, while 44 per cent had not done so in more than a year.

Thirty-seven per cent reported that they have not been hugged for at least half a year, while 25 per cent said they had not shared a hug for a year or more. A further 13 per cent said they have not been asked how their day was or talked to their neighbours in six months or more.

The report called for public services to be delivered in a way that makes it easier for people to form new relationships. This would enable citizens to prevent problems and manage them more successfully with less reliance on the state, it said.

The data comes as Demos warned that there is a "huge risk" that the community spirit prompted by the virus crisis will be lost.

Polly Mackenzie, the chief executive at Demos and the author of Relational Public Services, said the pandemic had shown that strong community ties are "vital to our resilience and strength as a society".

She added: "Our new research worryingly shows that these gains we’ve made in community relationships earlier in the pandemic are in danger of being lost. If we’re to build back stronger from the pandemic, we need to reimagine our public services for the 21st century as a way of strengthening our communities, relationships and social capital."

Andy Start, the executive officer at Capita Government Services, said: "The report’s findings demonstrate the UK public’s appetite to shift to a relational model for service delivery.

"This would enable service providers and users to form strong relationships with one another and build trust, in turn helping combat social isolation and build stronger communities."