Aussies’ Biggest Regrets Are That They Didn’t Do More with the Time They Had

By: McCrindle

As we settle into the 2020’s, it’s the perfect time to reflect not only on last year, but on life so far. Based on the latest survey we conducted, there’s some valuable advice to keep in mind and equip you, as we enter this new decade of massive change.

Australians were asked if they had their life over again, what would they do differently?

The top 3 regrets according to more than 3 in 4 Australians is they would have:

1. Achieved more with their life (77%)

2. Spent more time with family (76%)

3. Worried less about what people thought of them (76%)

The next biggest regret for 7 in 10 Aussies (71%) is they wished they’d stayed in touch with friends from childhood and youth. Around 3 in 5 would have worked harder in their career (59%) and a similar proportion would have taken more risks (62%). At the same time, well over half of Aussies (56%) would not have worked so much at the expense of family and friendships.

‘When looking back over their lives, Australians reflect strongly on the priority of family. Yet work and career matter too. While the old adage states that no one on their deathbed wished they had spent more time at the office, the reality is quite different with most Australians (59%) wishing that they had worked harder at their career.’ – Social Researcher, Mark McCrindle

The common thread is that Australians wished they had spent their time more wisely. Including prioritising their relationships with loved ones, spending less time worrying about what people thought of them and more time (and risks) on achieving their goals in life and career.

An even more pointed question we asked was, ‘If you were to die tonight, what would be your biggest regret?

A confident few (11%) said they’d have no regrets if they died tonight. Almost 9 in 10 do have regrets.

One cheeky respondent said, if they had life over again, they’d “spend less time filling out surveys” (touché), and another said they’d “have more dachshunds” (why not?). Someone’s biggest regret was “not seeing St Kilda win a grand final” (obviously born post-1966) and another that they “never got to fly in a Spitfire” (fair enough).

The top two regrets are family related

1 in 4 would regret ‘leaving family behind’ and 1 in 5 say their biggest regret is ‘not seeing their children and grandchildren grow up’. The third is ‘not living life to the full’ (14%). Again, the top regrets are family related and making the most of the time we have.

Other regrets respondents mentioned include:

• Not providing my kids and grandkids with a better life
• Not telling someone how much I really loved them
• Leaving my spouse, family/friends behind and not believing in myself more
• Not completing my bucket list
• Being estranged from my daughter
• Not contributing more to the greater good

‘The message from Australians, if they had their life over again, is that they would prioritise family, stick with their relationships, do more for others, care more about friends and less about what others think of them, set more goals, take more risks, and say a whole lot more “I’m sorry” and “I love you”. Now that’s good advice for all of us. ’ – Social Researcher, Mark McCrindle


These insights were gathered from a nationally representative survey of 1,008 Australians conducted by McCrindle in November 2019.

For more information

If you found this article interesting, download our free McCrindle Insights Report for more information on the trends shaping the future of Australia.

Article supplied with thanks to McCrindle.

About the Author: McCrindle are a team of researchers and communications specialists who discover insights, and tell the story of Australians – what we do, and who we are.