If you're torn between a relationship and work, put your relationship first.
A new study, published online in the journal Social Psychological & Personality Science, has found people have bigger regrets about love than they do about work. Researchers from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Groningen in The Netherlands examined the results of five different experiments on people's regrets in life, and found regrets about love are more common and tend to be more intense than those revolving around work.
In one experiment, the researchers asked 128 participants about their regrets regarding romance and family, and those regarding their career and education. Examples of their regrets in love included marrying one's first husband, whereas work regrets included quitting high school and not going to college.
The researchers found participants rated their love regrets higher in original intensity than work regrets – that is, the degree to which it bothered participants at the time the event occurred. Even at the time they were surveyed for the study, the intensity of their love regrets remained higher.
"Failed marriages, turbulent romances, and lost time with family may elicit regrets that last a lifetime," the researchers wrote.
They noted that experiences, such as lost loves or quarrels, weigh more heavily than jobs lost or mistakes made in school because regrets of a social nature pose a threat to one's need to belong.
"The need to belong constitutes one of the most pivotal of human motives. Faced with social rejection, mental and physical health suffer dramatically," they wrote. "....The need to belong is not just a fundamental human motive but a fundamental component of regret."
The findings challenge an earlier study from the University of Illinois, which determined that people's biggest regrets, in descending order of frequency, were education, career, romance, parenting, self-improvement and leisure.
What is your biggest regret?