Who are these happy, healthy, wealthy, fifty-somethings?

ANOTHER day in the newsroom, another small avalanche of surveys, measuring everything from our attitude to alcohol to the children's names that have fallen out of fashion to the annual savings made by those who grow their own fruit and veg on allotments.

All fascinating in their own way, and some can be a godsend on a slow news day, spawning as they do discussion and possibly – if you're lucky – an element of "well, I never..." or at very least a raft of statistics that we can ponder and figure out whether/where our own habits or beliefs fit into the story.

Among the most recent lifstyle research, commissioned by Harrogate-based Engage Mutual Assurance, comes a report based on interviews with 1,479 people aged 50 or above across the country.

There's a raft of questions, but the overall conclusion tells us that many people in this age group are at their happiest ever.

They rejoice in good health, have time to enjoy life and are in a relatively good financial position.

More than 40 per cent say they're comfortable with their bodies and happy with what they've achieved in life so far. Other factors contributing to this apparent "age of happiness" include being in a strong relationship, having paid off the mortgage, and the children being content with their lives.

The survey reveals that 52 per cent of the 50+ group are relishing having more time on their hands, more than a fifth enjoy a great social life and can rely on a good circle of friends. The upbeat report goes on to say that a third of happy over 50s have children who are content with their own lives and these young people no longer rely on them for as much support.

I'm not doubting the methodology, or even the interpretation of the findings , but when something chimes very little with your own experience, you naturally take a second glance. The implication of "a surprising 44 per cent" claiming they are now more content with their lives than ever before presumably means that 56 per cent are not. Forty per cent may be comfortable with their bodies, but the inference is that 60 per cent still wish to be thinner or fitter. A third of "happy over-50s" may say their children are contented and less dependent on them, but that leaves 66 per cent still in the thick of worrying about their children's unsettled lives, that may include unemployment, debt and being unable to afford a home of their own.

As someone who's part of a broad friendship group that falls into the 45-55 age group, it is the flip-side of these statistics that rings more true to me. Most of us have children spanning the last years of school/university/post-college; many of us also have various problems associated with the care of aged or infirm parents who do not live close to us; and far from feeling on a firm financial footing, a good proportion of the circle is worried about money, having had pension problems and great concerns about increasing longevity and how we will be able to finance our own care in later life.

Several people have lost their job or had their hours cut; one or two couples have paid off their mortgage, but a couple of others have increased their mortgage to help finance their children's education, and no-one in this group of professional people feels they will be able to retire even a couple of years early.

All are deeply anxious – in a few cases to the point of sleeplessness – about what lies ahead for some or all of their children, when a three-year degree may leave them with debts totalling upwards of 40,000.

One couple had vague plans to move to a small house, releasing money to travel more and worry less about household bills as they got older, but find themselves with two resident "boomerang" postgraduate children in their mid-20s, whose poorly-paid public sector jobs mean they don't plan to move out any time soon.

The tensions created by having adult children still occupying the same space they did while growing up, often reverting to lazy childhood habits, creates tensions with parents who had fondly imagined that by now they would be out every night and climbing mountains or hooked on whitewater rafting. Instead they are tightening belts, cutting expenditure, and wondering how multi-generational living can be managed, should their youngsters fail to launch.

Oh, and I know only one woman over 50 who wouldn't like to lose at least a stone.