"Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret," wrote 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in his political novel, Coningsby . Hyperbole aside, he may have mixed things up a bit. The latest research suggests that young people tend to fixate on their regrets, whereas older adults generally learn not to waste time wallowing in remorse about past circumstances they cannot change. A new study demonstrates that these cognitive differences manifest themselves in brain scans and physiological responses, revealing that, unlike healthy adults, both depressed adults and young people treat missed opportunities and genuine losses as equally regretful events--even if they were not directly responsible. Taming such ruefulness appears to be crucial to emotional stability and happiness in old age , and related therapies could help adults with depression. For the young, however, a little regret might be useful,...
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