New research suggests that having more money can actually lead to a more fulfilling life. Investigations of thousands of Swedish lottery winners have provided convincing evidence of this and have answered the age-old question...can money buy happiness?
The winners of the lottery were proven to be substantially more satisfied with their lives than lottery non-winners or non-players. Those who won hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in lottery prizes were significantly more satisfied than winners of only tens of thousands.
These positive happiness effects were also proven to be remarkably long-lasting. The results were still visible for as long as two decades after a significant victory. Unfortunately, the researchers did not have the data to detect even longer-term consequences.
The Research Report
The findings appear in a research report, "Long-term effects of lottery wealth on psychological well-being," which caused much excitement among economists during the summer. The assignment is by Erik Lindqvist of the Stockholm School of Economics, Robert Ostling of Stockholm University and David Cesarini of New York University.
The authors asked the Swedish Statistical Officials to investigate every winner of three of the country's biggest lotteries for more than a decade, and then used the government records to track other aspects of the winners' lives.
Their surveys used different approaches to measure subjective well-being. The measure most strongly linked to income is asking people how satisfied they are with their lives as a whole. In contrast, answers to a question about happiness showed even more correlation with winnings in the lottery. Social scientists consider life satisfaction questions as a full evaluation of life, while questions about happiness produce responses that are more related to current moods or feelings.
Other studies by these authors - sometimes with other scholars - have examined the economic lives of these lottery winners to explore the effects of wealth further. Contrary to popular belief, those who win millions don't blow most of their profits at once. Instead, they are slowly spending their newfound wealth over many years. Many people do not resign from their jobs, but they do work slightly less and retire earlier.
In an email, one researcher, Mr Cesarini, characterized that "there is a widespread misconception that winning the lottery can make people miserable, but now science has proven it wrong." The misconception probably comes from an earlier generation of lottery studies, but in the end, science has finally corrected itself.
After forty years, three determined economists, thousands of lottery winners and highly detailed data, a more honest and unexpected truth has been revealed: Money does help people lead a more fulfilling life and CAN buy happiness.