The National Lottery has been run by operator Camelot since it began in 1994. Since then, more than 2,000 people have become millionaires as a result of winning the lottery. The fascination surrounding what affects the change in financial circumstance had on a person’s life prompted the need for an in-depth research project.
The National Lottery asked Dr Richard Tunney from the School of Psychology to answer the age-old question – does money make you happy?
Using a series of established methods, Dr Tunney assessed a range of lottery winners and their lifestyles, and compared his findings with a control group of non-lottery winners from similar backgrounds.
Yes – having more money does make you happier, but only in certain areas of life.
The National Lottery
Winning the lottery seems like a dream come true for many of us, but is that really the case? The School of Psychology, ranked among the top three of the UK's 83 psychology departments by The Times Good University Guide for the second year running, was approached by The National Lottery to undertake this project.
The National Lottery approached the School of Psychology to undertake this project and Dr Tunney’s previous research into decision-making with money made him perfectly qualified for this consultancy role. Research work in this field has previously been extremely limited, and this was the first academic study of its kind.
“Around 75% of lottery winners choose to remain anonymous so it’s historically been extremely difficult to conduct research into their lifestyles,” says Dr Tunney. “However, The National Lottery gave me access to 34 publicity winners with an average win of £2.5million.”
Some of the participants’ wins dated back to the very start of the lottery, which “allowed me to do something extremely interesting,” continues Dr Tunney. “Psychology has what’s known as a set-point theory, which means that people’s levels of happiness go up and down, but usually return to a set point. This study let me examine how long lasting the effects of life-changing wealth really are.”
Dr Tunney used a number of standard scales to measure the happiness of the group – questions were based around lifestyle, living arrangements, occupation and holiday patterns, as well as about general types of mood. He then compared these results with a control group of non-lottery winners, who closely matched the lottery winners’ previous incomes, geographical locations and occupations.
“The main point of interest is that our set-point theory wasn’t true in this case – the lottery winners were happier in general and remained this way. Most of them made changes to their occupation and housing, but most also stayed in the same area, holidayed in the same places and kept the same group of friends. Many of the big life changes people expect to make are actually a myth.”
Reassuringly, the control group were, overall, satisfied with their lives too, an aspect that Dr Tunney puts down to “living in a relatively wealthy nation anyway.”
“From The National Lottery’s point of view, they now have a credible piece of research they can draw upon. This has proved to be an excellent way to address the increasing media interest into the more positive aspects of winning the lottery.”