Women more unhappy than men for almost their entire lives

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Women are more miserable than men for almost their entire lives and are happier only in their mid-80s, according to a new NHS survey.

The study found that women’s happiness grows after retirement – before they overtake men at age 85.

This may be because many older people are widowed by then, which generally boosts happiness in women but makes men more miserable, psychiatrists claim.

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Twenty eight per cent of women aged 16-24 - almost three in 10 - have mental health problems bad enough to count as a disorder. This is almost twice as many as men of the same age bracket, an NHS survey of 8,000 people found (stock image)

Twenty eight per cent of women aged 16-24 - almost three in 10 - have mental health problems bad enough to count as a disorder. This is almost twice as many as men of the same age bracket, an NHS survey of 8,000 people found (stock image)

Twenty eight per cent of women aged 16-24 – almost three in 10 – have mental health problems bad enough to count as a disorder. This is almost twice as many as men of the same age bracket, an NHS survey of 8,000 people found (stock image)

WHY OLDER WOMEN ARE HAPPIER

Dr Kate Lovett, dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said women ‘are still more likely to bear the brunt of domestic and caring responsibilities’ for most of their lives.

In old age this burden may lessen when women are no longer responsible for elderly parents and children at the same time.

Above the age of 85, men’s unhappiness jumps above women’s.

Dr Lovett said: ‘Men who are single, widowed or divorced are more vulnerable to developing depression and men who are in this age bracket may be more likely to be on their own.

‘Paradoxically married women are often more likely to develop depression.’

The number of Britons reporting consistent unhappiness is on the rise, with women more likely to report severe issues at every age, the Health Survey for England found.

Twenty eight per cent of women aged 16-24 have mental health problems bad enough to count as a disorder, reports the Times.

This is almost twice as many as men in the same age bracket, the survey of 8,000 people found.

As they enter middle age, 24 per cent of women – almost a quarter of 45 to 54-year-olds – are classifiable as mentally ill.

But the survey found that these numbers drop as women get older, with 16 per cent found to have severe problems past 65, dropping to 14 per cent over 85.

Dr Kate Lovett, dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said women ‘are still more likely to bear the brunt of domestic and caring responsibilities’ for most of their lives.

In old age this burden may lessen when women are no longer responsible for elderly parents and children at the same time.

Above the age of 85, men’s unhappiness jumps above women’s, with 19 per cent appearing to have a mental disorder.

Dr Lovett said: ‘Men who are single, widowed or divorced are more vulnerable to developing depression and men who are in this age bracket may be more likely to be on their own.

‘Paradoxically married women are often more likely to develop depression.’

Women are more miserable than men for almost their entire lives and are happier only in their mid-80s. This may be because many older people are widowed by then, which generally boosts happiness in women but makes men more miserable (stock image)

Women are more miserable than men for almost their entire lives and are happier only in their mid-80s. This may be because many older people are widowed by then, which generally boosts happiness in women but makes men more miserable (stock image)

Women are more miserable than men for almost their entire lives and are happier only in their mid-80s. This may be because many older people are widowed by then, which generally boosts happiness in women but makes men more miserable (stock image)

The NHS survey asked 12 questions around people’s general levels of depression, anxiety, self-confidence, happiness and sleep patterns.

Those scoring more than four on a 12-point scale were deemed likely to have mental health issues, though a formal diagnosis would require a doctor’s opinion.

In total, almost one in five adults were found to have a mental illness, up by 25 per cent in the past four years. 

Dr Lovett added that experts must study the reasons for rising rates of unhappiness in Britain, with a focus on the role of social media and economic problems.

‘The impact of individual suffering and the economic impact are enormous,’ she said. 

THE WELLBEING SURVEY 

The NHS survey asked 12 questions around people’s general levels of depression, anxiety, self-confidence, happiness and sleep patterns. 

Participants stated how often they experienced a number of feelings linked to depression and other mental health problems.

Options ranged from ‘none of the time’ or ‘rarely’, to ‘some of the time’, ‘often’ or ‘all of the time’.

1) I’ve been feeling optimistic about the future

2) I’ve been feeling useful

3) I’ve been feeling relaxed

4) I’ve been feeling interested in other people

5) I’ve had energy to spare

6) I’ve been dealing with problems well

7) I’ve been thinking clearly

8) I’ve been feeling good about myself

9) I’ve been feeling close to other people

10) I’ve been feeling confident

11) I’ve been able to make up my own mind about things

12) I’ve been feeling loved

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