Gay couples are much more likely to be happy in their relationships than straight ones, according to a new study published today.

The major Open University study which was published on Tuesday, found that gay couples were more likely to be happy and positive about their relationships.

It also found, however, that gay couples were less likely to be openly affectionate, for fear of attracting disapproval or unwanted negative attention.

It said: “Public/private boundaries of ‘couple display’ remain fraught. Many LGBQ couples, especially the younger ones, say they would not hold hands in public for fear of reprisal.”

The study was aimed at finding out ways in which couples manage to stay happy through tough times.

“LGBQ participants are more generally positive about and happier with the quality of their relationship and the relationship which they have with their partner” read the study.

“Heterosexual parents are the group least likely to be there for each other, to make ‘couple time’, to pursue shared interests, to say ‘I love you’ and to talk openly to one another.”

Simple shows of affection such as making tea for their partner were more important to couples as examples of intimacy than grand gestures like declaring “I love you”.

Dr Jacqui Gibb, co-author of the report, said: “Grand romantic gestures, although appreciated, don’t nurture a relationship as much as bringing your partner a cup of tea in bed or watching TV together.”

Couples without children were also found to be on average happier than parents, and the group least likely to feel satisfied with their partners was mothers who were “significantly happier with life than any other group”.

The study was funded by the Economic and Science Research Council, and concluded that it was “hard to pin down” what is meant by love in relationships.

It surveyed 5,000 respondents, and 1% of those were brought back to give in-depth interviews.