Romantic regrets are the most common type, research finds.
Among women, regrets about romance were twice as common as among men.
For men, work regrets were most widespread.
Other common areas of regret included financial decisions, parenting mistakes, missed educational opportunities and family arguments.
Professor Neal Roese, an author of this study, said:
“We found that one’s life circumstances, such as accomplishments or shortcomings, inject considerable fuel into the fires of regret.
Although regret is painful, it is an essential component of the human experience.”
Single people were most likely to have romantic regret, the researchers found.
In general people regretted actions and inactions to equal degrees.
But it was regrets about things that people didn’t do that lasted the longest.
Here is the full list of most commonly described regrets:
- Romance, lost love – 18.1%
- Family – 15.9%
- Education – 13.1%
- Career – 12.2%
- Finance – 9.9%
- Parenting – 9.0%
- Health – 6.3%
- Other – 5.6%
- Friends – 3.6%
- Spirituality – 2.3%
Education seems to play a role in career regrets, the study’s authors explain:
“Americans with high levels of education had the most career-related regrets.
Apparently, the more education obtained, the more acute may be the sensitivity to aspiration and fulfillment.”
Professor Roese said:
“Past research on regrets focused on samples of college students, which made it difficult to glean insights into the wider population.
This research, however, offers a unique and more thorough look into the psychology of regret to further understand how regret connects to life circumstances and its impact on decision making.”
The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (Morrison & Roese, 2011).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Regret image from Shutterstock