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Research of The Question: Are Lottery Winners Happier

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Whether winning lottery has an effect on winners’ well-being has always been a debatable topic. However, the famous research conducted by Brickman in 1978 suggest that their sample of 22 lottery winners do not seem to be happier compared to the 22 controls they have chosen. In the handbook of positive psychology, subjective well-being refers to a positive evaluation of life, both affectively and cognitively, which can be interpreted into easier phrases like positive emotions and life satisfaction. It is usually achieved when tensions (e.g. pain) are reduced, needs are met or life goals are accomplished. It is considered that lottery winners are happier after a big win because of less financial burden and better access to life facilities. This essay aims discussing reasons why the long-run well-being of lottery winners can be improved by discussing the link between wealth and happiness.

People buy lotteries due to curiosity, the willingness to win, joy and the feel of luck. The process of winning lottery brings happiness for following reasons: Firstly, the hope of winning is the main reason why people buy lotteries. Availability heuristic seemingly make them imagine their bright future after winning and ignore the tiny possibilities of winning, which is a delightful process. Secondly, lottery play enhances social interaction among buyers. Ariyabuddhiphongs (2011) found evidence from Wickwire et al.’s study (2007): College students increase social interaction through buying lotteries. Thirdly, buying lotteries itself lead to a decline in negative emotions; The higher people spend on lotteries, the more their negative emotions decline (Ariyabuddhiphongs, 2011, cited Bruyneel et al. 2006).

After they win the lottery, their life satisfaction enhances due to the increase in wealth. Some researchers believe the connection between wealth and happiness is insignificant. For example, Kuhn et al. (2011) studied the winners of the Dutch Postcode Lottery and found out that income barely had any influences on winners’ well-being. Gardner and Oswald (2001), however, after studying the data from the British Household Panel Survey, which tested more than 5000 households on their level of stress and happiness by GHQ, found out these households still experienced a reduced level of stress and a rising level of happiness though it had been 2 years after the lottery win. The result seems to be more trustworthy due to the large sample. Nevertheless, they cannot confirm how long this happiness lasts. Lindqvist et al. (2018) developed their own research based on the above-mentioned studies. They rescaled Brickman’s study and came to a different conclusion. They carried out their own study and found out that the overall and financial life satisfaction of lottery winners increase sustainably. Apouey and Clark (2014), however, indicate that mental health and physical health should be considered separately after a lottery win. They found out that lottery winners will have a better mental health condition while they seem to smoke and drink more. This means their mental well-being has been improved while their physical well-being has deteriorated. Overall, lottery winners are happier after the big win.

It seems that most lottery winners have the ability to manage their life. Although it is believed by many that lottery winners usually quit jobs and use money irresponsibly until they use up their money, there is barely any proof to prove it (Lindqvist et al., 2018 cited Cesarini et al., 2017). Lottery winners do not seem to quit jobs and use their money irresponsibly. Winkelmann et al. (2018) found out that lottery winners tend to feel that they do not deserve the win at the beginning, which hinders them from using the money, but they will finally get adapted to the win and enjoy the prize. They, regardless of their backgrounds and the amount of money they win, keep working and most of them earn more than ordinary people. In addition, in contrast to the myth that lottery winners might get addicted to lottery purchase, they are not likely to take part in another lottery play or other types of gambling. It appears that most of the lottery winners’ life quality has been improved, which makes them happier in a long term. (Ariyabuddhiphongs, 2011, cited Eckblad and von de Lippe 1994).

The happiness of lottery winners is also related to the way they spend their prize. Money makes people happy when people know how to manage it. Dunn, Gilbert and Wilson (2011) indicate that people feel happier when they think about how to use it rather than use it recklessly. Research found out that lottery winners stay frugal and spend their money carefully (Ariyabuddhiphongs, 2011, cited Kaplan 1987). The same research also found out that lottery winners tend to be more willing to spend their prize on their children and churches. Dunn et al. (2008) found out that using money on others can improve one’s happiness significantly. If lottery winners use their money wisely, their happiness can be promoted.

However, there are limitations in this essay. Firstly, almost all of the research chosen focuses on the well-being situation of lottery winners in one specific country, which means researchers hardly have chances to compare the situation of one country to another. In addition, almost all of the research took place in regions like West Europe, Scandinavian countries, North America etc. These wealthy countries can hardly represent the whole world. People from different countries have different levels of happiness and different understanding towards happiness. More research on lottery winners in developing countries should be included. Secondly, none of the chosen research has divided lottery winners into different age groups. More research on young lottery winners is required. Thirdly, whether the level of happiness and how long it lasts relevant to the amount of prize is not mentioned in this essay, which requires more research. Last but not least, more research about how much individual differences affect the happiness of a lottery winner should be done.

In conclusion, it appears that lottery winners are happier. First of all, the process of winning a lottery is full of joy. The hope (Ariyabuddhiphongs, 2011, cited Tversky and Kahneman 1974), the social enhancement (Ariyabuddhiphongs, 2011, cited Wickwire et al. 2007) and the reduction of negative emotions while buying lotteries all bring happiness (Ariyabuddhiphongs, 2011, cited Bruyneel et al. 2006). The connection between wealth and happiness has been found in several studies. It seems that most lottery winners know how to take advantage of the win and live a better life (Ariyabuddhiphongs, 2011) instead of using up the money like many people expected (Ariyabuddhiphongs, 2011, cited 2009),. They tend to not attend another lottery play or other types of gambling (Ariyabuddhiphongs, 2011, cited Kaplan 1988). However, there are a few shortages in this essay: The chosen studies are conducted in wealthy western countries, which cannot represent the whole world; More study about young lottery winners are required; The relationship between happiness and the amount of money should be mentioned; More research about individual differences should be done. Overall, lottery winners are happier after winning the lottery.


  1. Apouey, B., & Clark, A. E. (2014). Winning Big but Feeling no Better? The Effect of Lottery Prizes on Physical and Mental Health. Health Economics, 24(5), 516–538. Retrieved from
  2. Ariyabuddhiphongs, V. (2010). Lottery Gambling: A Review. Journal of Gambling Studies, 27(1), 15–33. Retrieved from
  3. Brickman, P., Coates, D., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1978). Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative? Journal of personality and social psychology, 36(8), 917. Retrieved from
  4. Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319(5870), 1687-1688. Retrieved from
  5. Dunn, E. W., Gilbert, D. T., & Wilson, T. D. (2011). If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 21(2), 115-125. Retrieved from
  6. Gardner, J., & Oswald, A. (2001). Does money buy happiness? A longitudinal study using data on windfalls. Manuscript submitted for publication. Retrieved from
  7. Gardner, J., & Oswald, A. J. (2007). Money and mental wellbeing: A longitudinal study of medium-sized lottery wins. Journal of health economics, 26(1), 49-60. Retrieved from
  8. Lindqvist, E., Östling, R., & Cesarini, D. (2018). Long-run Effects of Lottery Wealth on Psychological Well-being. NBER Working Paper 24667. Retrieved from
  9. Kuhn, P., Kooreman, P., Soetevent, A., & Kapteyn, A. (2011). The Effects of Lottery Prizes on Winners and Their Neighbors: Evidence from the Dutch Postcode Lottery. AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW, 101(5). Retrieved from
  10. Powdthavee, N. (2010). How much does money really matter? Estimating the causal effects of income on happiness. Empirical Economics, 39(1), 77–92. Retrieved from

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