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Accident Victims Happier Than Lottery Winners

In 2010 The New Yorker magazine summarized the findings of an earlier study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers assembled three groups of people—major lottery winners, paralyzed accident victims, and a control group of random individuals—and asked them a battery of questions about their present, past, and future happiness.

Here's what the researchers found (adapted from The New Yorker article):

  • The lottery group rated winning as a highly positive experience and the accident group ranked victimhood as a negative one. Clearly, the winners realized that they'd been fortunate.
  • But this only made the subsequent results more puzzling. Shockingly, the lottery winners took significantly less pleasure in daily activities—including buying clothes—than the members of the other two groups.

You read that correctly. The lottery winners were no happier than the random control group, and both the control group and the paraplegic and quadriplegic accident victims expressed more happiness in undertaking life's daily activities than the recently rich.

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