Regret in later life: exploring relationships between regret frequency, secondary interpretive control beliefs, and health in older individuals

Int J Aging Hum Dev. 2009;68(4):261-88. doi: 10.2190/AG.68.4.a.


The present study examined what older people regret, and the relationships between regret, health and life satisfaction. The study also explored the role of secondary interpretive control beliefs in relation to regret. Participants (N= 228; 79-98 years old) were asked to report on the content and frequency of their regret, secondary interpretive control beliefs (e.g., beliefs in finding the "silver lining" in a dark cloud), health, and life satisfaction. A content analysis revealed that participants most commonly reported feeling regret due to things they had not done, the death of a loved one, and their own or others' health problems. Regression analyses indicated that experiencing regret more frequently was associated with poorer health and life satisfaction. Moreover, evidence for an emotion-modifying role of secondary interpretive control beliefs was shown through its negative association with regret. Results suggest that older adults may be experiencing age-related regrets that differ in content from those experienced at younger ages and that certain control beliefs may serve to lessen regret.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Culture*
  • Emotions*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Manitoba
  • Quality of Life
  • Regression Analysis