What do Americans regret the most? Regret can weigh you down, leading to focusing on the past rather than a brighter future. Each of us has a bundle of regrets; I will spare you my own list – it is unlikely you have the time or interest to lend a sympathetic ear. What’s on your list?
Researchers at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University set out to answer this question by surveying a randomized sample of adult men and women across the U.S.
How did they do the study?
A total of 370 adult Americans (207 were women) completed a survey via telephone (in exchange for $5; mailed). The response rate (i.e., the proportion of eligible respondents who
completed the interview) was 20.5% and the refusal rate (i.e., the proportion of eligible respondents who refused the interview or broke it off after starting) was 49.1%.
Participants were asked to report one salient regret in detail, and then to provide further information about the nature of the regret. Participants next answered single questions reflecting variables of interest (listed below); two other variables were coded from participants’ responses.
Action effect. ”Does the regret focus on something you should have done, or something you should NOT have done?”
The researchers concluded:
The most frequent regrets of Americans are about love, education, and work. Romantic regrets–America’s most common–focused on lost chances for potential romances, and relationships that did not live up to their potential. The other common regrets for Americans involved family, education, career, finances, and parenting. Women were more likely to have regrets about relationships (romance, family), and men were more likely to have regrets about work (career and education). It was the lack of romantic relationships and the lack of higher education that were regretted most.
Do these results reflect American values and lifestyles or can they be applied globally?
While not surprising, the relative value of work and love for men and women is particularly striking. Any recommendations of how to bridge that gap?
AAAS Eureka Alert.
You can read the full paper here.