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.)