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Psychol Aging. 2007 Jun;22(2):319-30.

Regret intensity, diurnal cortisol secretion, and physical health in older individuals: evidence for directional effects and protective factors.

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Department of Psychology, Centre for Research in Human Development, Concordia University, Montreal, PQ, Canada.


Two studies were conducted to examine the associations between life regrets and health-relevant variables among older adults. Study 1 explored whether intense experiences of regret would be associated with a health-relevant biological process (i.e., diurnal cortisol secretion) and acute physical problems (N = 183). In Study 2, a group of 103 older adults was followed over a period of 3 months, and changes in cold symptoms and sleep problems were examined. Study 2 incorporated an experimental manipulation, targeted at engaging participants in adaptive social- cognitive processes through writing. The results of Study 1 showed intense life regrets to be associated with a larger volume and a steeper morning rise of cortisol secretion and with higher levels of acute physical symptoms. Study 2 demonstrated that levels of regret intensity generally declined only in the experimental group, whereas certain aspects of regret intensity remained stable in the control group. In addition, the intervention evidenced a beneficial effect on the association between initial regret intensity and increased sleep problems over time.

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