Why are lottery winners so often unhappy?

Study shows: lottery winnings make you happy

Why in the world don't win the lottery make you happy? Economists and psychologists have been grappling with this question for decades. Study after study contradicted common sense and resulted in: measurable increase in happiness - nonexistent.

Well, it looks like the scientists were wrong. At least that is what a study suggests that for the first time operates with a larger database and can compare the satisfaction levels of the same people before and after winning the lottery.

Rainer Winkelmann, economist at the University of Zurich, and a colleague from the University of Warwick were able to access the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). It surveys around 30,000 people in Germany every year - also about their satisfaction with life and also about lottery wins.

What determines well-being?

Armed with such data, the scientists see the situation fundamentally differently than Philip Brickman and colleagues, for example. In 1978 they came to the conclusion that well-being dances around a basic level that is different for every person - and that, as a rule, hardly changes over a lifetime. The psychologist Brickman and his team had investigated the luck of lottery winners and accident victims.

Result: Neither did a bad stroke of fate - here an accident with the following paraplegia - lead to permanent misfortune. A lottery win still lifted the mood in the long term. In any case, one to twelve months after winning the lottery winners were not significantly happier than a control group without a win.

The problem, however, lay in the details: Firstly, the sample was tiny - only 22 lottery winners and an equally small control group. Second, scientists couldn't study people's happiness before and after they won. They simply didn't have the data for that, they couldn't know in advance who would win. They only compared the winners' feelings of happiness with those of the non-winners.

The lottery win just has to be big enough