Guilt is a useful emotion

Population study on feelings of guilt in adults

Research results, research projects

Results published!

Researchers from the Erfurt University of Applied Sciences and the SRH University of Health have for the first time collected and evaluated data on the subject of feelings of guilt in the general population, which have now been published in two articles. Under the direction of Professor Dr. Tobias Luck, University of Applied Sciences Erfurt, and Prof. Dr. habil. Claudia Luck-Sikorski, SRH University of Health, 1003 adults between the ages of 18 and 97 years were interviewed by telephone nationwide.

People are able to experience a wide range of different emotions. Within this spectrum, complex emotions such as love, envy or feelings of guilt are particularly fascinating for research. Feelings of guilt in particular deserve increased attention: on the one hand, they can be useful, for example by leading to apologies or attempts to make amends to other people and thus strengthen social cohesion. On the other hand, feelings of guilt can be very uncomfortable and stressful for those affected and thus lead to further psychological impairments. Despite these potential effects, little is known about guilt feelings in the general population.

The researchers were able to show that a good two thirds (68.5%) of adults in Germany have felt guilty feelings in their lives. At the time of the survey, one in ten adults (10.6%) also stated that they are currently feeling guilty. In a quarter of these adults, the guilt feelings were even "rather strong" or "very strong". There were no differences between men and women, neither for the current guilt feelings nor for those felt throughout their entire life cycle. The results thus refute typical prejudices that women are more emotionally charged. On the other hand, there was a strong correlation between current feelings of guilt and feelings of depression. Around a quarter (24.9%) of the respondents with current feelings of guilt fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for the presence of clinical depression. For adults without current feelings of guilt, it was only 5%. Further studies are necessary, in particular on this possible influence of feelings of guilt on the risk of depression and corresponding treatment strategies.


Scientific contact:
Prof. Dr. habil. Claudia Luck-Sikorski
Vice President

Head of Degree Program Mental Health and Psychotherapy, M. Sc .;
Professor of Mental Health and Psychotherapy;
Head of Research
Email: [email protected]
Phone +49 365 773407-45