Winning Tonight’s $550 Million Dollar Powerball Won’t Make Make You Any Happier

In addition to being most unlikely, NBC News want’s you to know that even if you did manage to win tonight’s $550 million dollar Powerball lottery (it was at $450 million on Sunday) it wouldn’t make you any happier.

You surely know by now that the Powerball jackpot is set to hit at least $550 million tonight. You should also know that your odds of winning the grand prize are somewhere around 1 in 176 million (at least, we really hope you know that). So here’s a bit of comfort for you tonight as you stare dejectedly at your losing ticket: Most lottery winners don’t end up any happier than the rest of us.

Yeah, yeah, you can probably name 550 million reasons why winning the jackpot tonight will make you happy. But here’s the truth: A handful of psychology studies over the years have evaluated the happiness of lottery winners over time, and found that after the initial glee of getting one of those big giant checks has faded away, most winners actually end up no happier than they were before hitting the jackpot.

Arguably the most famous paper on this subject was published the late 1970s, and it’s a doozy: Psychologists interviewed winners of the Illinois State Lottery and compared them with non-winners — and, just for good measure, people who had suffered some terrible accident that left them paraplegic or quadriplegic. (You can find the abstract here, but you’ll have to pay to read the full report.) Each group answered a series of questions designed to measure their level of happiness.

What they found was counterintuitive, to say the least: In terms of overall happiness, the lottery winners were not significantly happier than the non-lottery winners. (The accident victims were less happy, but not by much.) But when it came to rating everyday happiness, the lottery winners took “significantly less pleasure” in the simple things like chatting with a friend, reading a magazine or receiving a compliment.

I think I speak for everyone here is saying that we’d happily take our chances and opt for winning…

Update: Winning numbers for the nearly $580 million Powerball jackpot are 5-23-16-22-29. The Powerball is 6. Winning tickets were purchased in Arizona and Missouri, lottery officials said.

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