Women are unhappier than men until they reach their mid-80s, a new survey has found.
While men were found to be happier in their younger years, women only overtake them after the age of 85 – and psychiatrists claim it could be when they become widows.
The NHS’ Health Survey for England concentrated on 8,000 people, and found a dramatic difference between the genders right through to beyond retirement.
The study found 16 per cent of women have “severe mental health problems” over the age of 65, but that falls to just 14 per cent over the age of 85.
According to The Times, psychiatrists claim it may be because they are then widowed.
More women are reporting “consistent unhappiness”, with 28 per cent aged 16-24 suffering mental health problems bad enough to count as a disorder, compared to 16 per cent of men.
The study also found women are more likely to report problems at almost every age, while men tend to stay silent – which could explain higher suicide rates for males.
The gender gap begins to narrow between the ages of 25 and 34, with 18 per cent of both males and females suffering mental health problems – but women then become unhappy at middle age again.
In fact, the study found a staggering 24 per cent are classifiable as mentally ill aged 45 to 54.
Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Kate Lovett, said women may be more down because they “are still more likely to bear the brunt of domestic and caring responsibilities”.
She added: “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.”
She said that the reasons for rising unhappiness rates needed to be investigated urgently.
“The impact of individual suffering and the economic impact are enormous,” she said.