Happiness of Lottery Winners – Studies in Levity
It’s often assumed that acquiring a massive, life-changing lottery windfall will result in long-lasting happiness and contentment.
To determine the accuracy of this popular assumption, numerous studies have been conducted over the years, with the co-operation of hundreds of lottery winners. This is what they found.
Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative?
In 1978,sociologist, H. Roy Kaplan,conducted what is now a classic study into the relativity of happiness. They took as their subjects three contrasting groups: lottery winners, non-lottery winners and accident victims.
The lottery winners had acquired prizes ranging from $50,000 to $1 million, while the accident victims had been rendered paraplegic or quadriplegic.
The researchers conducted interviews with the participants and questioned them about their happiness in the past and present.
Using ratings of 0-5, results indicated that both winners and non-winners shared similar levels of happiness scoring 4.00 and 3.82 respectively. The accident victims’ responses were significantly lower at 2.81.
However, when interviewees were quizzed on the amount of pleasure they derived from normal, everyday activities such as watching TV, talking to friends or eating breakfast, both the non-lottery winners and accident victims were happier than the lottery winners with scores of 3.82 and 3.48 compared to just 3.32.
Lottery Winners: The Myth and Reality
In 1987, H. Roy Kaplan expanded on his previous work to examine some of the myths surrounding lottery winners, of which many had and continue to be perpetuated by the mainstream media.
This time his sample audience was much wider after 576 lottery winners returned completed questionnaires. The majority of those questioned had won at least $50,000 and hailed from a variety of backgrounds.
Results indicated that winners tended to be older than the general population and, contrary to popular belief, did not embark on lavish spending sprees. Kaplan also concluded that they did not become dispirited or depressed about their winnings.
In fact respondents claimed that the money had helped to relieve financial burdens and provide them with a stronger sense of security and confidence which they had not previously felt.
National Lottery MORI Survey
Research on the subject hasn’t just been restricted to academic circles. UK National Lottery operators, Camelot conducted a survey in 1999 which sought to discover the effects that winning the lottery had on happiness, lifestyles and relationships.
249 players were questioned, all of whom had won at least £50,000. Respondents also included 111 winners who had received over £1 million in prize money.
Their findings revealed that only 2% of winners were less happy and that 55% were happier having won their jackpot. In addition, two-thirds of the 55% claimed that their happiness was due to financial security. A further 23% claimed that their ability to buy most things they wanted made life much easier.
The Social Effects of an Unexpected Income Shock
Another major academic study was undertaken in 2003 when Dutch researchers, Peter J. Kuhn, PeterKooreman, Adriaan R. Soetevent andArieKapteyn, examined the behaviour of 419 lottery-winning households.
Surveys were sent out with a variety of questions regarding levels of happiness. The subjects were asked to provide information on their behaviour six months after the prize and six months before.
Among the numerous conclusions that were drawn about household consumption and expenditure, it was also concluded that lottery winnings did not make households happier and that a person’s happiness was more strongly linked to permanent rather than short-term increase in income.
Other End of the Rainbow – Post-Winning Life among Swedish Lottery Winners
In 2011, 420 Swedish lottery winners were interviewed by sociologist Anna Hedenus as part of aPhD thesis which examined how they managed and experienced their life situations after winning.Multiple factors were considered including work, leisure, consumption and economic security.
Hedenus echoed the conclusions of Kaplan when she found that the majority of her respondents felt a sense of strong satisfaction born out of the financial security associated with receiving such a large windfall. She did however conclude that happiness wasn’t necessarily dependent on prize money.
Contentment brought about by financial security is a recurring theme in these studies, particularly those by Kaplan and Hedenus. It seems that winning a large amount of money can have a positive, long-lasting emotional effect.
However, it was also found that the initial thrill wears off and that Hedonic Adaptation tends to kick in. This term describes how human beings have a tendency to quickly return to a stable level of happiness after significant spikes in positive or negative emotions as well as lifestyle changes.
Kaplan even went as far to suggest that this kind of habituation could serve to lessen the impact of new pleasures. So it’s reasonable to conclude that those lucky enough to win the lottery shouldn’t expect the giddy hysteria to last forever.
However, prudent financial management can help bring a sense of security and peace-of-mind that should stand the test of time as well as temptation.