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What’s Your Biggest Regret?

Making this study unique in comparison to prior ones on regret is that the new study included participants in a broad range of ages (from 19 to 103) and socioeconomic backgrounds. The results showed that any number of specifics (gender, age and education level) influence the types of regrets people feel. An interesting summary finds that there is no consistent pattern for regret: As many respondents expressed regret for something they had done as those who felt regret for something they had not done.

The Times notes that women were far more likely to have romantic regrets, with 44 percent fretting about a lost love, while just 19 percent of men still had relationship regrets. People who were not in a relationship were the most likely to cite a romantic regret. Regrets tended to follow traditional gender roles, with women expressing more regrets about relationships and family issues, whereas men tended to focus on issues involving education, career and money. One in three men had regrets about work and career, compared with one in four women with similar regrets.

Dr. Roese says that regret can be damaging to mental health when a person fixates or ruminates on the missed opportunity. However, regret, although painful, has the potential to refocus attention and improve decision making.

“There are ways regret feels bad, but on average, regret is a helpful emotion,” said Dr. Roese. “The most helpful way to experience regret is to feel it deeply, get over it quickly and move on and use it to push you to new behaviors that are going to be helpful.’’

What’s your biggest regret? Or are you a member of the no-regrets family? Share in the comments. (You won’t regret it.)

Related:
Self-Forgiveness
5 Happiness Boosters That Do More Harm Than Good

Read more: Children, Health, Love, Mental Wellness, Relationships

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

161 comments

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5:42PM PDT on Apr 16, 2013

The only real regret I may have(the others have been forgiven) is marrying someone simply because it "seemed like the right thing to do" vs. actually marrying the right person.

2:12AM PDT on Mar 30, 2013

Thanks interesting article

4:36AM PST on Jan 20, 2013

I don't have any,,,,

3:22PM PST on Jan 19, 2013

what is done is done ...just move on!

2:29AM PST on Jan 19, 2013

I regret I did not become began earlier.

10:41AM PST on Jan 18, 2013

Roger, what matters is what you're doing right now. It matters that you've come to the realization. You were raised one way and it took a long time to come to the realization you came to. I was in my 40's when it happened to me. I know what you're saying though. Move forward and keep doing the right thing.

10:35AM PST on Jan 18, 2013

My biggest regret that haunts me to this day is the fact that a man I met over 40 years ago and had a affair with was from another country and when he returned to Turkey I was too much of a coward to give up everything here and go with him. Too this day I still love him and regret that I am still married to a man I really didn't love. I am now 70 and will die living a lie and loving another person who I can't get out of my heart.

10:29PM PST on Jan 17, 2013

That I didn't become a vegetarian till I was 30 and was responsible for the appalling treatment and death of so very many animals.

5:34PM PDT on Aug 27, 2012

Getting married at 19 and not getting divorced in the first 2 or 3 months after I was married. Big mistake.

8:10PM PDT on Aug 26, 2012

This is my daily mantra: Look back but don't stare. The past cannot be changed. Regret is a sterile emotion. Go forward.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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