Money 'may change the brain'

Money mind

While millions of losing ticketholders envy the winners, some studies have suggested that the lives of the winners may not turn out so well.

"While money may not buy happiness, what does it buy you is a lot of attention," Discovery News quoted Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University and expert on risk-taking behaviour, as saying.

"You become a financial target for some people. It may change your everyday life in ways you have no experience. How many people go from an everyday income to $500 million net worth? It raises the possibility of failure, what are you going to do with it. Everyone is coming to you with advice and your life has turned upside down," he said.

Academic studies on post-lottery happiness appear mixed. A frequently-cited study from the Journal of Personal and Social Psychology conducted in 1978 reported that 22 major lottery winners did not report happier after their winnings.

But a study in the Journal of Health Economics of lottery winners in Britain found that the winners "go on eventually to exhibit significantly better psychological health." It also found that improvements in their mental well-being vastly improved.

The British study was limited to winners of 200,000 dollars or less, however, and neither study looked at reports of the mega-million dollar winners of recent times.

Anecdotal accounts of mega-failures have become mythical, such as West Virginian Jack Whittaker. Whittaker won 315 million dollars in 2002, but later was robbed at a strip club, his granddaughter died under strange circumstances and by 2007, he said his bank accounts were largely empty, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Evelyn Baseshore of New Jersey won two payouts totaling more than 5 dollars million in the mid-1980s and was besieged by thieves and hangers on.

According to Scott Huettel from Duke University, the brain's reward system is looking for transitions, not a steady-state and that's why winners should spread their winnings out over time rather than the lump-sum payout. That way, the anticipation of a big check triggers each year will kick the brain's reward system into high gear.

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