"When looking back on my past life I regret...": Retrospective regret in the second half of life

Erika Timmer, Gerben J. Westerhof*, Freya Dittmann-Kohli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The study investigated the frequency, themes, and attributions for significant regrets in a random probability sample of 3,917 German and Dutch nationals between the ages of 40 and 85 years. It was found that 14% did not have any regrets in spontaneous memory, and that this increased with the age of the respondents. With respect to mentioned regrets, older people, women, and those living in the former East Germany were more likely to recall externally attributed events; younger participants, men, West Germans, and the Dutch recalled more internally attributed events. Largely, memories related to 4 major themes: (a) mistakes, behavior, and bad decisions in general; (b) hard times; (c) social relationships; and (d) missed educational opportunities. The importance of these themes, however, varied according to age, gender, and regional belonging. Differences in the kind of attribution and in the centrality of themes are discussed in terms of lifespan theory, death preparation, and cultural differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-644
Number of pages20
JournalDeath Studies
Volume29
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes

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