fb-pixel Skip to main content

It’s not just something your mother told you — scientific research shows that money can’t buy happiness, especially not over the long term.

Experts Catherine Sanderson from Amherst College and Clayton Cook from the University of Minnesota offered insight into the emotional effect the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot might have on the winner in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Sanderson, a professor of psychology who is often introduced as the “Professor of Happiness,” wrote in an e-mail that if a winner has struggled financially, the influx of money will increase happiness in the short term.

The hefty bank account “will enable them to stop worrying about day to day survival (which really hurts the ability to find happiness),” she wrote.

Advertisement



“But if they are already comfortable financially . . . then they will experience an immediate increase in happiness, but over time, their happiness level will return to just about what it was yesterday,” Sanderson wrote.

She added: “We basically adapt to newfound wealth, and then our comparison level changes, so what we expect would make us happy ‘forever’ in fact does not.’’

Cook, an associate professor in the university’s College of Education and Human Development, agreed that the happiness level for someone who is suddenly a multimillionaire will skyrocket, especially as they gain the opportunity to buy the cars, the pools, the vacations, and other material things they could not afford previously.

More money “means being able to take care of one’s basic needs, which then frees one up to concentrate on and pursue other meaningful things in life,’’ he wrote in an e-mail.

But he wrote that research shows that long-term happiness comes not from leaving money in the bank, but from spending it — on others and on causes that one fervently believes in.

“Happiness is a byproduct of the meaning and purpose one derives from life,’’ he wrote. “If one spends their wealth on doing good deeds for others or the environment or supporting a noble cause, then boosts in happiness appear to be stronger and last longer.”

Advertisement




John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.