Scraping of a lottery ticket
Photo: Mostphotos


“Even a long time after they’ve won – more than a decade later – we find that those who won a large sum of money are more content with their lives than those who won smaller amounts and those who didn’t win at all” says Erik Lindqvist, professor of economics at the Swedish Institute for Social Research at Stockholm University, who is one of the researchers behind the study.

Together with researchers Robert Östling at the Stockholm School of Economics (Handelshögskolan) and David Cesarini at the New York University he has surveyed the well-being of participants in either of the two Swedish lotteries Triss and Kombilotteriet.

Reduced working hours might effect

Results show that large-prize winners report higher life satisfaction compared to those who won smaller amounts, or didn’t win at all. A strong reason for the increased life satisfaction of large-prize winners is – not completely unexpected – their improved financial situation. Another potential mechanism is that many large-prize winners reduced their working hours.

“We find no evidence that lottery winners squander the prize money. Even ten years after winning most winners retain a significant part of the amount won”, says Erik Lindqvist.

The effect of money on well-being has been somewhat of an open question. Several studies have shown that richer individuals are more satisfied with their lives, but it has been less clear to what extent their better financial situation is the reason for it, according to Erik Lindqvist.

“A striking feature of our results is that the effect on life satisfaction does not disappear with time – large-prize winners are more satisfied with their lives also ten years after winning”, says Erik Lindqvist.


Happines and well-being not the same

However, though lottery wins increase life satisfaction, it is less clear whether other measures of well-being, such as happiness, are also affected. Though large-prize winners considered themselves slightly happier, the difference compared to small-prize winners and nonwinners was not statistically significant. The different results for life satisfaction and happiness might be explained by how people interpret these concepts, according to Erik Lindqvist.

Erik Lindqvist, professor of Economics at Stockholm University
Erik Lindqvist, professor of Economics at the Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University. Photo: Daniel Rossetti / Stockholm University

“Exactly how people evaluate their happiness we cannot know, but I would think that it is strongly related to how they feel at the moment. To be satisfied with your life, on the other hand, is perhaps more about having what you think you can demand of life” says Erik Lindqvist.

The researchers also surveyed the lottery players’ satisfaction with a number of specific factors, such as work, family, health, place of residence, and then estimated how these depended on winning the lottery.


Money doesn't affect the social situation

“We find that winning large sums of money strongly affects how content you are with your personal finances. But it does not affect how you feel about other aspects of life, such as your health, or your relationships with friend and family”, says Erik Lindqvist.



How the study was carried out

3,334 people who had subscribed to tickets from the lottery Kombilotteriet between 1998 and 2011 or participated in televised draws of winnings from the Triss lottery between 1994 and 2011 were asked during the autumn of 2016 to answer a survey questions about their subjective well-being. Of these, just over 400 people had won SEK 1.5 million or more (measured in 2011-prices).

The survey included four different well-being measures: Happiness, satisfaction with life in general, satisfaction with different parts of life, and mental health. The questions answered were:


•    All in all, how happy would you say you are? (Scale 0-10, from extremely unhappy to extremely happy)
•    All in all, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays (Scale from extremely dissatisfied to extremely satisfied)
•    How satisfied are you with: health, leisure hours, personal finances, friends and family, the home you live in, the neighborhood you live in, Swedish society (6-point scale, from very dissatisfied to very satisfied).
•    Index for mental health, based on a number of questions about, for example, perceived anxiety, difficulties with concentration, sleep problems, feelings of being important and being able to solve problems in everyday life.


Read more about this research:

Erik Lindqvist, Robert Östling, David Cesarini, Long-Run Effects of Lottery Wealth on Psychological Well-Being, The Review of Economic Studies


Erik Lindqvist, professor of Economics,