This ‘I read it in the paper so it must be true’ statistic came from a survey of 2,000 people published earlier this week that claims to show that our main areas of regret are our love lives (20 per cent), family (18 per cent), career (16 per cent) and finances (14 per cent).
As usual, when I see a survey story, I skipped to the middle to find out who had commissioned it. Just in case they had some sort of ulterior motive.
My fears were laid to rest when I saw that the authors of this serious, academic study were the manufacturers of Electric Zebra, an electronic cigarette substitute who clearly have nothing to gain, except the free publicity. That and taking up smoking at number five in the top ten regrets.
But what has this contributed to our knowledge of the human condition? Apart from the headline figures, the article I read wasn’t particularly enlightening.
For example, if one in five of us regret our love lives, what does that mean? Having one? Not having one? Having the wrong one? No chance of getting the one you’d like even if Davina McCall were ever to become available? *
And the love life worry didn’t feature in the top ten of specific regrets which were mostly about not doing things, like saving more, exercising or seeing more of the world.
Nor was there any breakdown by demographics. Was it a representative age sample, for example? The older you get, the more you have to regret. Or perhaps that is the evolutionary purpose of age-related forgetfulness.
Or does age not matter and our regrets expand to fill the 44 minutes a week we set aside to sigh about them?
So many unanswered questions. Anyway, someone with something to regret yesterday was Shelagh Fogarty, presenter of the lunchtime news programme of Five Live.
The usually bright and articulate Fogarty was discussing the mounting violence in Syria and the importance of technology and social media in telling the world what is happening when she asked one of the most stupid questions I’ve heard for some time. Listen below:
* I don’t mean to imply that I personally regret the non-availability of Davina McCall, or at least it’s not something that bothers me for more than, say, 43 minutes a week.