old couple
Women's happiness peaks during the time their partners die seyfettin dincturk/Unsplash

Women are less happy than men for most of their lives, according to a new NHS survey.

However this changes as they reach old age, with women's happiness levels peaking after the average age of their partners' deaths – aged 85.

The survey found that women consistently report mental health problems throughout their lives. For example, 28% of women aged 16 to 24 have mental health problems bad enough to count as a disorder, compared with 16% of men. These numbers fall over time with 16% of women above the age of 65 having severe mental health problems, dropping to 14% at 85.

The results were based on 8,000 people as part of the annual Health Survey for England.

Middle age seemed to be the most problematic age bracket with 24% of women aged 45 to 54 classified as mentally ill.

Kate Lovett, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said women were more likely to be unhappy because they often take on more responsibility when it comes to domestic burdens, The Sun reported. She said these stresses might lessen in old age when they are no longer caring for kids and elderly parents.

The health survey asked 12 questions in which people rated their general levels of happiness, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and self-confidence. If anyone scored four in the twelve-point scale, they were thought to have a mental health problem – but would still require formal diagnosis from a doctor.

Experts also added that women are more likely to share their problems, and that suicide rates in men are still three times higher than women.