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Money CAN buy happiness

The old saying “money can't buy happiness” has been proved wrong by researchers at The University of Nottingham. A study into lottery jackpot winners — those who have won more than £1 million — found that a resounding 97 per cent of interviewees were just as happy, if not happier, following their big win.

And it seems that money can even buy you love. Although 15 per cent of winners classed themselves as single in their previous lives, this dropped to 12 per cent post-win. Marriage is also on the cards for many winners — 68 per cent of respondents were married pre-win, jumping to 74 per cent afterwards.

Winners and non-winners completed a questionnaire designed as the ultimate happiness test, and their answers were compared. A Satisfaction with Life scale was used to determine subjective well-being; with respondents asked to rate how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “In most ways my life is close to ideal.” Marital status, health, type of house and typical holiday destination were also noted, measuring how lifestyles changed following a big win.

The study found that though the money brought with it financial stability and security, it was not necessarily material possessions that enhanced winners' lives. 44 per cent of winners said that being able to spend more time with their family contributed to their happiness, compared to 26 per cent who said it was the ability to buy or do what they liked.

When presented with the statement “I am satisfied with my life,” 59 per cent of the winners agreed, compared to 40 per cent. Reassuringly for the non-winners though, the same number responded positively to the statement “In most ways my life is close to ideal” as the winners — 48 per cent said they agreed in both groups.

Just three per cent of the winners polled said they were less happy than before they hit the jackpot, citing new pressures in their lives. None missed working, found that the money caused arguments in their households or that it led to separation from their partners.

But the huge life changes that are expected to materialise following a big win are more myth than reality. Though many winners seem to move into bigger properties — 68 per cent of winners lived in detached houses compared to just 32 per cent pre-win — they stay in the same geographical area.

And though winners do take more holidays — three a year compared to non-winners 1.5 — they're not noticeably more adventurous in their destination choice than non-winners. Holidays in the UK and Europe remained popular — 100 per cent of winners had taken a holiday in Britain since their win.

Dr Richard Tunney, Psychology Lecturer at The University of Nottingham, said: “The old saying 'money can't buy you happiness' may not be true, but traditional family values, a comfortable home and financial security are clearly key elements to a happy life. Winners may shell out on a new home and more holidays, but the majority aren't snapping up penthouses in the capital and cruising in the Bahamas. Instead they're sticking to their roots, investing in property close to their original home and even keeping their holidays low-key. One pair who had hit the jackpot still took regular trips to their caravan in Ironbridge.”

The research was commissioned by National Lottery operator Camelot. It is the first academic study into jackpot winners since the National Lottery began 12 years ago.

Emma Thorne | alfa
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