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Most Common Regrets People Have in Their 50s 

12 things people in their 50s wished they had done differently, according to experts.

With every new stage in life, we tend to look back and take note of things that worked and things we would have done differently. It's normal to have regrets and  Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D., a professor of public health at New Mexico State University tells us, "From a health and well-being standpoint, two types of regret are common and they are unfortunately and often, felt in the most intense manner. Broadly speaking, they are related to our personal wellbeing and the well-being of those closely associated with us." He adds, "Foundation regrets are those where we start reflecting on our decisions, judgments, and actions. We reflect later in life on how we were financially unwise or irresponsible healthwise. Frequently, these are associated with a feeling of inability to undo the past actions or act when it was needed. Today, heart disease and cancers are leading causes of death globally and the preventive actions have to start at a younger age (e.g. healthy diet, adequate exercise, sleep routine establishment, stress management, etc). Once people acquire such diseases, there can be a lot of regret about lifestyle in the past." When it comes to our health there's many things we can control and according to experts Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with, here's the most common regrets people in their 50s have about not taking care of themselves. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Not Reaching Out For Help

woman holds forehead while sitting at a table with coffee mug

Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center with a background in oncology clinical trials and over 15 years of direct patient care experience says, "Depression is unfortunately common among older adults, but it shouldn't be considered normal. Depression can affect overall health by degrading sleep, reducing the ability to focus and fracturing social relationships. Certain medical conditions, such as cancer or genetic history, may cause an increased risk of depression in some people. Seeking emotional support and therapy early can prevent depression from becoming severe. Early signs to watch out for include changes in sleep or eating habits, increased isolation, fatigue or feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or self-harm. Instead of regretting it later, reach out to a friend, family member, or medical professional who can connect you with mental health resources. Therapy is available in many forms, such as a group setting, psychiatrist, or Telehealth.

Older adults often regret not focusing on health in their younger years. Simple activities such as jogging, swimming, or bicycle significantly improve disease prevention but become less effective when started later in life. Being conscious of mental health is another frequently missed opportunity for adults entering their senior years. Meditation, therapy and hobbies can help with issues such as anxiety and depression and can be good skills to develop before turning 50." 


Still Smoking


Dr. Mariette Y. Amadi, MD, Associate Chair of Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital says, "People in their 50s have this regret because of the medical comorbidity associated with smoking like Chronic obstructive lung disease- which is an irreversible lung disease and/or lung cancer.  Yes, they can still quit smoking because it may slow down the progression of the disease."


Drinking Too Much Alcohol


Dr. Amadi reminds us, "Alcohol dependence can lead to poor quality of life which can lead to lack of compliance to medical care. People with alcohol abuse have poor mental judgement, are at risk of not maintaining their jobs and barely visit their doctors. Multiple medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, liver disease, pancreatic disease could occur with alcohol and if not taken care of may of course cause death. Yes, they can still quit alcohol because they have a chance of getting their medical conditions under control if not at the end stage of diagnosis."


Doing Drugs


Dr. Amadi says, "The explanation is the same as alcohol abuse. Poor insight to medical conditions, lack of compliance with treatment, not able to maintain jobs and yes, they can quit by asking for help. Their doctor can refer them to drug rehab facilities to assist them with quitting and getting back to a healthy lifestyle."


Poor Diet

fast food

According to Dr. Amadi, "Unhealthy diets filled with too many carbs, salt and fat can cause multiple comorbid conditions like High blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, or diabetes mellitus type 2, Yes, people can choose to eat a healthy diet to prevent these diseases. Their primary doctor can refer them to visit with a dietician for dietary education, they can exercise every other day or daily and have checkups with their primary doctors."

Dr. Sunjya Schweig, MD, Founder and President of the California Center for Functional Medicine adds, "Not eating healthier and finding oneself struggling with health issues as a result can be a common regret that we hear from patients.Optimal diet for healthy aging and prevention of chronic illness is

–Nutrient dense

–Whole foods

–Low in sugar and simple carbs

–Low in pesticides and preservatives (minimize packaged foods)

–No or low intake of processed foods

–Minimize industrial seed oils

–Moderate alcohol intake"


Not Eating Enough Protein

banana protein shake

Allie Nowack, PA with the California Center for Functional Medicine shares, "Adequate protein intake can protect against the degenerative and involuntary process of skeletal muscle loss characteristic of aging, known as sarcopenia. This process may affect as many as 25% of older adults. Inactive men and women begin to lose muscle every year after age 30. On average, you'll lose 3-8% of your muscle every decade starting in your 30's. But only if you do nothing. A study in postmenopausal women found that women who consumed on average 1.1 g/kg/d protein had lower body fat and fat-to-lean ratio as well as improved upper and lower extremity function compared to those who consumed a low protein diet. Hydrate! Drink enough water: at least ½ your body weight in pounds. So for a 150 lb person, drink at least 75 oz of water per day, and more if you sweat, drink alcohol, or caffeine."


Not Having a Good Skincare Regimen and Taking Better Care of Your Skin

Woman applying lotion to the skin around her eyes in the mirror

Dr. Kemunto (Kemmy) Mokaya, a board-certified dermatologist states, "While most adults can wing it with skincare in their 20s and 30s, the results of neglecting your skin can be very apparent in your 50s and beyond. Lack of a good skincare regimen can lead to skin that ages prematurely, with more fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, dark spots, dull skin and uneven complexion. It is more expensive to try to correct your skin when you're older than it is to find a good routine earlier on and stick with it."


Not Wearing Sunscreen Regularly and Practicing Sun Protection

Woman hands pouring sunscreen on hand and holding blank sunscreen UV protective lotion bottle packaging cosmetic template for your design and leave space for adding your content

Dr. Kemmy says, "Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is one of the leading causes of premature aging. Not practicing sun protection – by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats, and protective gear and so on – can lead to regrets in your fifties when you develop premature signs of aging and look older than your peers. You can also develop pre-skin cancers (called actinic keratoses) and skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma (the most common skin cancer), squamous cell carcinomas, and melanomas from excessive exposure to the sun. These conditions are more serious than photoaging: they are painful to treat, can lead to scarring and disfigurement, are expensive, and can be fatal – for example melanomas."


Not Getting Enough Sleep

man sleeping soundly in bed
Shutterstock / Syda Productions

Dr. Schweig says, "Many regret that they did not prioritize sleep and sleep routine before they really started to struggle more with disrupted sleep. Midlife hormone changes can worsen sleep, especially if the individual did not already have a good routine in place 

Optimal sleep is important for

–Mood, cognitive functioning, and memory


–Immune function

–Cancer prevention

–Metabolic balance and blood sugar control"


Not Practicing Safe Sex

Womans hand putting condom package in her pocket, contraception

"For those who get divorced or move out of a long term relationship for one reason or another, not praticing safe sex can lead to big regrets," Dr. Schweig says. "Just because pregnancy becomes less of a concern, STDs do not and these need to be paid attention to. Get tested with any new partners, and use condoms until you are sure you are both safe."


Weight Gain and Not Exercising Often Enough

feet on scale

According to Dr. Schweig, "Many regret not having done a better job of maintaining a healthy weight. Prioritizing health and self-care before and during mid-life increase resiliency and lessens or eliminates the symptoms that many experience. Fluctuations in estrogen, testosterone, and insulin often combine with decreasing thyroid levels, which can increase hunger, decrease muscle mass and therefore slow metabolism. Regular movement is vital to slow the aging process and decrease risk of the following:

–Joint pain and inflammation


–Sleep disruption

–Heart disease



–Depression and anxiety

A Combination of strength/resistance training with aerobic exercise tends to work best for optimization of muscle mass and bone mineral density."


Letting Life Get in the Way and Not Having Healthy Relationships

mature friends socializing In backyard

Dr. Schweig explains the following benefits for having healthy relationships and the regrets people have for not making people in their life a priority.

–Positive relationships, significant other, friends, with kids etc, are critical to overall health

–Many get lost in the busyness of daily life and raising families and find themselves lonely and isolated after their kids leave for college

–Poor relationships/connections/social isolation is a common source of stress and regret as we age

–No one wishes they had worked more and missed more family events! 

–Many regret letting their work get in the way of having been more present with their kids, spouse, families, loved ones, and friends."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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