Older womenDPA DEUTSCHE PRESS-AGENTUR/DPA/Press Association Images

A new study into what really makes us happy when we're over 50 makes for fairly terrifying reading. There is a huge gender divide, with women saying it's all about their relationships with friends and their financial position - while men think happiness depends on their relationship with their wife and their family's health.

They have very different views on the importance of sex too.

Money matters

The study, by Saga, found that money made the top three for both sexes, but it was rated as more important by women. It also found that the younger you are, the more money matters. For those in their 50s, 90% said it was a vital factor in determining their happiness, which dropped to 86% for those in their 70s and older.

Men

So what matters more than money?

For men it's their relationship with their partner. Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga, said: "We were astonished to see that men say their relationship with their partner is the primary influence on their happiness, while for women, it only ranks sixth." And this isn't just a product of the fact that women tend to outlive their partner, the findings were consistent across people in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

The other notable difference between the sexes was that men rated their sex life as more of be an important influence on their happiness. Over half of men (52%) said it was vital, compared to just 35% of women

Altmann adds: "In many cases, experience would show older men are very reliant on their partner. It's difficult to assess why they are more so than women, but it may have something to do with the sex question!"

Women

Women, meanwhile, prioritise their friends. Altmann says: "Our findings suggest just how vital maintaining a healthy network of friends in older age is, for women especially." There's an argument that as women are working increasingly late in life, these networks are likely to be strengthened by long-term colleagues too.

For women, friends are the only thing that's more important to them than money. This may be because their financial situation tends to be more fragile than that of their husband. Patrick Connolly, a Certified Financial Planner with AWD Chase de Vere, says: "Within older generations women may be relying on their husbands to provide for their future, and may not have saved for their retirement themselves. There are times when this leaves them very focused on their finances."

Altmann adds: "Women work less, earn less, save less and live longer. They have much less pension income than men, which could well be why money - or the absence of it - is more of a factor than for men."

Work

It's also worth considering carefully where work fits into the puzzle. For both sexes it was down the bottom of the top ten, with only 31% of men and 49% of women considering it important to their happiness. Given that we spend so much of our lives focusing on work (often to the detriment of other parts of our lives) it's an eye-opener that people who have been working for 30 years or more rank it as so unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

Finally, Saga said that

Factors influencing the happiness of Britain's over 50s:


Men
1 My relationship with my spouse/partner 89%
2. My partner's or family's health 88%
3. My money/financial situation 87%
4. My relationship with my children 84%
5. My relationship with my friends 80%
6. My hobbies/interests 76%
7. My relationship with my grandchildren 62%
8. My sexual relationship 52%
9. External factors seen in the news 46%
10. My work 31%


Women
1. My relationship with my friends 90%
2. My money/financial situation 89%
3. My partner's or family's health 84%
4. My relationship with my children 84%
5. My hobbies/interests 79%
6. My relationship with my spouse/partner 74%
7. My relationship with my grandchildren 64%
8. External factors seen in the news 52%
9. My work 40%
10. My sexual relationship 35%