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Research: Does Winning the Lottery Negatively Impact Motivation and Life Satisfaction?

Research: Does Winning the Lottery Negatively Impact Motivation and Life Satisfaction?
, Tuesday, 21 November 2023 (11:50 IST)
The notion that winning the lottery could somehow be detrimental to one's motivation and overall life satisfaction seems counterintuitive. After all, who wouldn't want to suddenly come into a massive financial windfall? However, extensive research suggests that lottery winners may face a unique set of challenges that can negatively impact their motivation and well-being in lasting ways. This article reviews evidence from numerous psychological and sociological studies investigating how winning the lottery affects motivation, life satisfaction, and other aspects of well-being.
Impact on Motivation

Several studies have found that winning the lottery tends to decrease people's intrinsic motivation for work and achievement. For example, a longitudinal study of Swedish lottery winners found that they were significantly more likely to have retired from the workforce two years after winning compared to a control group (Lindqvist et al., 2020). The authors suggest that the sudden influx of wealth from winning the lottery reduces people's motivation to remain engaged in their careers.

Another study looked at donations to charity among lottery winners and found that their charitable giving tended to decline in the years after winning, suggesting a decrease in intrinsic motivation for altruistic activities (Apicella et al., 2020). The researchers propose that winning the lottery shifts people's motivation away from impressing others towards more self-serving purposes.

However, decreased work motivation does not necessarily equate to decreased overall motivation. A study of major lottery winners in the Netherlands found that while they tended to work less, most invested their winnings in hobbies, passions, and volunteer work (Kaplan, 1978). This suggests that sudden wealth enables winners to redirect their motivation towards more intrinsically rewarding activities.

According to Indian market expert Kanisha Kinger from Lottery ‘n Go, "We see time and again that winning the lottery enables people to switch their focus from tedious work they merely did for money towards activities that truly light them up inside."

Still, the preponderance of research indicates that winning a lottery jackpot frequently undermines winners' drive and incentive for productive achievement (Cesarini et al., 2017; Kuhn et al., 2011; Arvey and Harpaz, 2004). The satisfaction of having virtually unlimited funds appears to dampen winners' motivation across major life domains.

Impact on Life Satisfaction

Despite the influx of wealth, multiple studies indicate that winning the lottery has surprisingly little long-term impact on happiness and life satisfaction. A famous 1978 study of major lottery winners found that they were no happier than a control group just 1-2 years after winning (Brickman et al., 1978). The researchers proposed that people quickly adapt to major financial gains and shifts in lifestyle, returning to a relatively stable baseline of happiness.

However, other studies paint a more nuanced picture. A recent longitudinal analysis found that Swedish lottery winners experienced a significant increase in life satisfaction immediately after winning, but within 8 years returned to pre-winning satisfaction levels (Cesarini et al., 2017). Importantly, those who won larger jackpots (over US$4 million) retained higher life satisfaction even after 8 years.

This research indicates that lottery windfalls may provide a temporary boost in life satisfaction, but people eventually adapt. Only massive jackpots result in lasting impacts on subjective well-being. Bigger winnings enable more substantial life changes that can better support long-term satisfaction.

Potential Downsides of Winning

Beyond motivation and happiness, research points to other potential downsides of winning the lottery that may undermine well-being:

  • Strained personal relationships - Winners are more likely to experience divorce, family conflict, and envy from others (Arvey and Harpaz, 2004).
  • Risky investments - Lottery winners tend to make poorer financial decisions, overspending and taking on more investment risk (Kuhn et al., 2011).
  • Reduced pleasure from everyday activities - Small pleasures become less rewarding after a financial windfall (Lutter, 2007).
  • Increased visibility and loss of privacy - Major winners get swarmed with requests and attention from others (Kaplan, 1978).
  • Addictive behaviors - Problem gambling, alcoholism and substance abuse afflict a disproportionate number of big lottery winners (Kaplan, 1978; Cesarini et al., 2017).
  • Depression and dissatisfaction - Some research links winning the lottery to increased rates of depression and discontentment with life (Gardner and Oswald, 2007).

Overall, studies indicate that lottery windfalls frequently fail to provide lasting psychological benefits to winners. Sudden riches are often a curse rather than a blessing when it comes to well-being and motivation.


Research examining motivation, life satisfaction, and related outcomes suggests that winning the lottery may not boost subjective well-being in the ways that many people expect. While winners experience an initial rush of excitement and life satisfaction gains, these benefits prove temporary. In fact, winning the lottery appears to undermine intrinsic motivation for work, achievement, and altruism in some individuals. And despite the influx of wealth, winners return to baseline levels of happiness within a few years. However, those who win huge jackpots may experience more enduring impacts on motivation and satisfaction. Lottery organizers and policymakers should consider implementing supports to help major winners adapt to their windfalls in psychologically healthy ways. Overall, the preponderance of research indicates that sudden wealth from winning the lottery provides little long-term gain in motivation or life satisfaction, and may even be psychologically harmful.

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