UK Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed a minister to continue the work of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox - tackling the issue of loneliness, said to affect some 9 million people across the UK.

The government announced it will be taking recommendations from the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, set up in Cox's honour.

The first of these was the appointment of a minister to take the reins. Tracey Crouch, the minister for sport and civil society, will lead a cross-party group to help develop strategies and policies to tackle social isolation.

"For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life," May said in a statement.

"I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones - people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with."

Recent studies have shown the impact of loneliness is a serious one. In two large meta-analyses released last year, researchers found that it was a significant contributor to early death.

A study in Australia found that loneliness can contribute to other mental illnesses, such as depression, social anxiety and paranoia.

And, according to a 2015 UK governmental review, 11 percent of elderly people have less than monthly contact with friends, family or neighbours.

The UK government has already begun work on community initiatives to reduce loneliness across all age groups, provide funding for activities, scale up existing work, and developing evidence to focus on the most effective projects.

"I am privileged to be taking forward the remarkable work done by Jo Cox, the Foundation and the Commission. I am sure that with the support of volunteers, campaigners, businesses and my fellow MPs from all sides of the House, we can make significant progress in defeating loneliness," Crouch said.

"This is an issue that Jo cared passionately about and we will honour her memory by tackling it, helping the millions of people across the UK who suffer from loneliness."