A study of 370 people found these are the 10 most common regrets. Don't make the same mistakes

Joe Vesey-Byrne
Monday 31 July 2017 09:45
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A representative study of Americans has found the 10 most common regrets.

Recruiting 370 participants, the authors attempted to find a sample that was representative of the United States of America.

The survey's findings were weighted in accordance with the 2011 US Census.

The study from researchers at Northwestern University was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science (2011).

Love tops the list

It found that unsurprisingly 'romance' or a 'lost love' is the most common regret.

This was followed by family issues, schooling, work, and money.

  1. Romance, lost love – 18.1 per cent
  2. Family – 15.9 per cent
  3. Education – 13.1 per cent
  4. Career – 12.2 per cent
  5. Finance – 9.9 per cent
  6. Parenting – 9.0 per cent
  7. Health – 6.3 per cent
  8. Other – 5.6 per cent
  9. Friends – 3.6 per cent
  10. Spirituality – 2.3 per cent

One of the co-authors of the study, Professor Neal Rose, 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.

Focusing on demographics and identity, the study broke down these results into some interesting findings.

Women tended to report romance regrets more than men, and single people tended to have more romantic regrets than people in relationships.

A previous 2005 study of regrets found education topped the list, then career, and then family.

The more highly educated participants had more regrets about their career - perhaps considering themselves too intelligent for their current role.

Some regrets are bigger than others

The study also found that regrets about 'inaction' tended to last longer than a regret about an action.

The 'what might have been' type regrets had longer effects than 'I should not have done that'.

Men tended to have more action regrets than inaction regrets, but overall Americans had about half and half of each type.

They also found that regrettable situations which could still be reverse loomed largest, as opposed to regrets far in the past where there was no chance of altering the outcome.

Older participants were found to have more regrets which could not be fixed in future, and younger people had the most fixable regrets.

Je ne regrette rien.

HT Spring

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