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Most Americans have regrets about romance, study finds

March 23, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
(Los Angeles Times )

Regrets? Had a few? Strains of "My Way" notwithstanding, Americans do have more than a few regrets -- and they are primarily about love. Family relations, education and career followed for the what-could-have-been crowd, a new study says.

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne analyzed a phone survey of 370 adults who were asked to describe one thing they regretted in detail.

Love and work seem to divide the sexes in the regret department. Women were found to have more regrets about romance than men (44 percent vs. 19 percent, respectively) and men had more work-oriented regrets than women (34 percent compared to 27 percent).

This statement about the study to be published in a forthcoming issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science says:

"--Individuals who were not currently in a relationship were most likely to have romance regrets;

--People were evenly divided on regrets of situations that they acted on vs. those that they did not act on. People who regretted events that they did not act on tended to hold on longer to that regret over time.

--Individuals with low levels of education were likely to regret their lack of education. Americans with high levels of education had the most career-related regrets."

So that rather begs the question -- what exactly constitutes regret? This Los Angeles Times story explains:

"Regrets are one form of the endless loop of what-might-have-beens that braids itself into the ongoing life narrative that runs in our heads, psychological researchers say. Some of these thoughts are benign and directly useful: The observation "I should have studied harder for that last test" can motivate people to work hard and score better the next time, research has shown.

"It is the larger self-betrayals that permanently crimp our narrative tape: a marriage ended too soon, or too late; an educational degree left unfinished; a move across the country, away from aging parents."

That sense of self-betrayal -- "My Way" pretty much covers that too.

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