New research suggests people are less likely to build new relationships than they were during the first Covid lockdown, with one in four adults not being hugged in over a year.

A third of adults, (32%) think there are fewer opportunities to make new connections as a result of the lockdowns, according to think tank Demos.

As restrictions ease across the UK and society reopens, 23% of the 1,000 UK adults polled in May believe there is currently more opportunities to make new connections.

The cross-party think tank found that almost two thirds (64%) of respondents said they have not made a new friend for six months, and 44% have not done so in more than a year.

More than a third (37%) reported that they have not been hugged for at least half a year, while 25% said they have not shared a hug for a year or more.

And 13% said they have not been asked how their day was, or talked to their neighbours, in the past six months or more.

A report, The Social State, is calling for public services to be delivered to help people form new relationships.

It warns there is a “huge risk” that the community spirit prompted by the crisis, which saw volunteers, friends and family provide food and support to vulnerable members, will be lost.

Polly Mackenzie, chief executive at Demos and author of The Social State, said the pandemic showed that strong community ties are “vital to our resilience and strength as a society”.

She said: “Our new research out today 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.”

The research, sponsored by Capita, found that the majority of British people want to get to know the people who provide local services (71%) and the community members who use them (64%).

Andy Start, 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.”