Monday, March 13, 2006

Lottery Winners, Paraplegics

I have read several times recently -- and quoted it myself, that there was research into happiness that showed that lottery winners were less happy than paraplegics one year after their life-changing events. I have variously read that their happiness is "the same," and that both " rapidly tend back to their previous levels of happiness," and that the research was done by "two professors in the 1970's."

It's an interesting thought, but I think it's an urban legend. I can find many references to the idea, but I can't find any references to actual research. It also has the smell of an urban legend, fitting nicely with our baser fantasies of the Lucky Ones not really being happy, and our admiration for the plucky spirit of those who overcome hardship. It may be based on some true fragments of the misfortunes of sudden riches, and all the importuning friends and relatives that result, or of actual inspiring stories of people who have enormous obstacles. But I don't think there's a real study to back this up.

5 comments:

Woody said...

I once helped a couple who won $10 million in the lottery (which was a lot in that day.) They took the money over 20 years and ran out of the first annual installment in only 8 months--leaving them unable to pay their tax estimates and (get this) their car payments! The banks couldn't take their future payments as collateral, so they had to get a private loan to carry them over. Their relatives were happy, but I can't say much for the couple who won.

GM Roper said...

Hmmm, if I win, I'll tell you how happy I am after 1, then 5, then 10 years... will that do?

Dan said...

here's some research, Journal of Personality 1978: http://education.ucsb.edu/janeconoley/ed197/documents/brickman_lotterywinnersandaccidentvictims.pdf

Anonymous said...

The research was done by Brickman, Coates and Janoff-Bulman (1978). If you do a search for "Lottery winners accident victims happiness", the article should come up.

Anonymous said...

better yet, here's the link
http://education.ucsb.edu/janeconoley/ed197/documents/brickman_lotterywinnersandaccidentvictims.pdf

and to my best understanding, lottery winners are way happier than paraplegics in this research.