Regret about missed opportunities reduces life satisfaction in old age
Scientists at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) have examined the influence of emotional experiences on health and well-being in old age. Regret and anger at missed opportunities could have a significant negative impact on life satisfaction in old age.
Researchers at the UKE's Institute for Systemic Neuroscience found that there is an essential link between the regret for missing opportunities and life satisfaction in old age. "Our results suggest that regret reflects a critical factor for the resilience of mental health in old age", Stefanie Brassen and colleagues from the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf currently report in the scientific journal "Science".
Brain activity analyzed in the event of missed opportunities According to the scientists, various "life-time theories explain successful aging with adaptive management of emotional experiences as regret." However, it was previously not known which neurobiological mechanisms underlie this observation, describe Stefanie Brassen and colleagues On the occasion of their current investigations. The scientists analyzed how to deal with unfortunate situations that cannot be reversed in a test arrangement in which the study participants completed several passes of a game of chance. The subjects were composed of emotionally healthy young and older people as well as patients with age depression. The higher the risk tolerance in the game, the higher the possible profit. But the increasing risk behavior was accompanied by an increased probability of losing. After each win, players were told what additional win they could have made if they had only risked more. While the test subjects were playing, the researchers at the UKE checked the changes in activity in the brains of the study participants using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
Brain response to missed opportunities similar to an actual loss The imaging technique of functional magnetic resonance imaging gave the researchers insights into the different neurobiological responses of the test subjects to the missed opportunities. The young study participants and the elderly subjects with depression showed a neuronal reaction similar to an actual loss when they were aware of the missed opportunities for gain. Although they had actually won, the neural reward system was hardly active in the ventral striatum, Stefanie Brassen and colleagues report. The regret and anger about the missed opportunities outweighed. In the healthy elderly subjects, however, there was a significant increase in activity in the brain's reward system after each win, even if they were told how much more they could have actually gained. A signal drop only occurred when there was an actual loss.
The art of being satisfied with what you have According to the researchers at UKE, their results support the thesis that, in unfortunate, irreversible situations, “reduced emotional engagement in these situations is a potentially protective strategy for ensuring well-being in old age” . "A relaxed handling of opportunities that you have missed in the course of your life plays a crucial role in life satisfaction in old age," emphasized Stefanie Brassen and colleagues in their article "Don’t look back in anger". The frontal brain makes a significant contribution to processing the different aspects of aging. Increased activity in certain areas (explicitly the anterior cingulum) has been associated with the ability to focus more on the positive aspects of aging. This area of the brain was also activated in the current study in the healthy older test subjects as soon as they found out about the missed chances of winning. Apparently this is the neurological key for suppressing regret and focusing on the positive aspects of life. (fp)
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