SUPERMARKET giant Sainsbury's has launched a new scheme hoping to help anyone feeling lonely or looking for somebody to talk to.

In a bid to get shoppers chatting and 'bridge the loneliness gap', the Talking Tables scheme will see tables in selected cafes designated for customers, colleagues and those in the community to share a conversation together.

The initiative will run in various formats including a sign-posted table in the chain's in-store cafés, staff volunteering to be table hosts and a charity-led format where stores will partner with community groups and work with their volunteer networks to host scheduled sessions.

Sainsbury’s will also be trialling the programme internally with staff members by setting up Talking Tables in back-of-house areas in its stores, depots and Store Support Centres.

The move comes as new research from Sainsbury’s latest Living Well Index, developed in partnership with leading researchers Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research, reveals the UK’s sense of wellbeing has fallen in the past 12 months – with loneliness identified as a key characteristic of those with a low sense of wellbeing.

The study of more than 8,000 people reveals one in ten Brits feel lonely all or most of the time – equivalent to almost six million adults across Great Britain.

Those most at risk of feeling socially isolated include young mothers, young single men, single people living alone with health problems and people who are out of work.

Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s brand, said: "We know from our Living Well Index that community connections are a key driver of helping people to live well.

"Yet with almost two thirds of us feeling lonely some of the time, it’s important that we contribute to helping to improve the lives of our customers and communities.

"We hope that by bringing people together at our Talking Tables, we can utilise the potential of our store-space to help people be better connected to the communities they live and work in.”

Developed in close association with the Chatty Café Scheme, Talking Tables is currently being trialled in 20 stores between now and December.