Women aged 60 or over report better quality friendships than those under 60

Women aged 60 or over report better quality friendships than those under 60

An annual study of more than 6,000 people has lifted the lid on relationships in the UK, suggesting that people aged 60 or over, and especially women, have better quality relationships with friends,  than those aged under 60.

Published by charities Relate, Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care, The Way We Are Now 2015 is one of the largest studies of its kind. It provides a window into some of the most important and personal areas of our lives – from couple relationships and family life to sex, friendships and how we feel about our colleagues and bosses.

The study paints a generally positive picture for friendships amongst the older generation, with 81% of people aged 60 or over reporting good relationships with friends, compared to 75% for those aged under 60.

Women aged 60 or over were more likely to report a positive relationship with their friends (86%) than men of the same age (76%).

Relate Counsellor Barbara Bloomfield said: “It’s great that so many women aged 60 or over have good quality friendships. The younger generation may talk about having hundreds of friends on social media, but how many of them could they really call in a crisis?

The rewards that come from making an effort to keep a good circle of friends are great; and, good friendships can help protect us from the loneliness that can otherwise creep up as we get older.

“Sadly, Relate’s new study found that one in ten people don’t have any close friends. Making friends and keeping friends isn’t always easy, and we know that it takes time, and effort.”

“Younger women are increasingly juggling a career with family life, and this can leave them with less time to spend with friends. This is different to when I was younger – many women who are now in their sixties had more time to invest in friendships when we were younger and lots of us also now have more time in retirement to nurture them further.”

Barbara’s tips for making and keeping friends

  • Compliment others. Let people know you appreciate them and then let others know as well. Passing on compliments is so much more rewarding than gossiping!
  • Keep looking outwards. Try new things and reach out to friends, old and new. Look for volunteering opportunities, meet-ups and fun events to attend.
  • Listen actively. Not fully listening is a reason why close friendship bonds aren’t made or retained. Asking a follow up question that shows you’ve really listened helps to deepen friendships.
  • Approach the quiet and shy. There are always people at parties and gatherings who are shyer and more scared than you are. Seek them out and say hello. They’ll be glad you did.**

** Based in tips from The Mature Guide to Relationships, Love and Sex By Barbara Bloomfield and Jane Silk (2014)

Further study results


  • Those 55 or over who are working are less likely to agree that the most productive people put work before family life (28% compared to 36% of under 55s)
  • Whereas those under 35 who are working are more likely to agree that the ideal employee is one who is available 24 hours a day (28%) compared to 20% for those 35 or over.


  • 50% of people across all age groups said that sharing problems was either the first, second, or third most important factor (from a list of sixteen) in showing commitment in a relationship.
  • 35% of those aged 65 or over thought that marriage was the most important sign of commitment, which fell to just 12% for the 16-24 year olds.
  • Nearly seven in ten people (68%) did not rank ‘Sex life/physical attraction’ in their top three most important factors in a relationship (of a list of seven) and this rises to 77% among those 65 or over.


  • 1 in 10 people said they have no close friends (10%).
  • Those with children are more likely to report having no close friends (11%) than those without children (7%)


  • 78% said they have a good relationship with their mum and 72% with their dad.
  • Even more encouragingly, 86% of grandparents said they have a good relationship with their grandchildren.
  • Nine out of ten parents (90%) said they have a good relationship with their children.


  • Over half of people (51%) say that they have not had sex in the last month.
  • This rises to 74% of those aged 65 and over who said that they had not had sex in the month prior to the survey.
  • 50% of those 60 or over responded said that a good sex life was important to them, compared to 66% of those under 60.
  • Older and younger age groups tended to rate sex as less important than those aged 25-44.
  • 26% of people aged 60 and over report having physically cheated (of those who reported having had a partner).

To see the full report about the study, including a selection of infographics on each topic, and full methodology visit www.relate.org.uk/waywearenow.