Married Female Lottery Winners More Prone to Seek Divorce, Study Suggests

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Posted on: March 27, 2023, 10:39h. 

Last updated on: March 27, 2023, 12:53h.

Hitting it big in a lottery is a dream shared by millions of people around the world. They think it will lead to a lifetime of happiness. But new research points out a potential drawback that many may not anticipate – divorce.

A divorce decree with wedding bands
A divorce decree with wedding bands. A study suggests lottery wins lead to more wives requesting divorces. (Image: Pinterest)

The study, which was conducted by researchers with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in Sweden, paints an interesting picture of lottery winners. It suggests that married female lottery winners are more likely to seek divorce than their male counterparts.

The study found that men and women were equally likely to experience an increase in happiness after winning the lottery. However, women were much more likely than men to experience a decrease in life satisfaction. As a result, they often seek a complete lifestyle change, including a new life away from their former partner.

‘Til Lottery Do Us Part

There have been reports in the past that the divorce rate in the US was as high as 50%. However, that has dropped in recent years. According to a 2022 study by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research, the figure is now around 12%, its lowest rate since 1979.

This doesn’t hold true among lottery winners, though. Some couples who win the lottery go their separate ways, with the wives often being the instigator of the divorce proceedings.

The NBER study, which reviewed around 500K lottery winners in Sweden, found that husbands statistically stand by their wives following a lottery win of SEK1 million (US$89,200) or more. Unsurprisingly, single men who win the lottery see a 30% increase in finding a mate within five years of receiving the windfall.

Female lottery winners take a different path. A sudden injection of money “increases short- and medium-run risks of divorce by 3.70 and 2.30 percentage points, respectively,” according to the study.

The group behind the research, David Cesarini, Erik Lindqvist, Robert Östling, and Anastasia Terskaya, emphasized a key component behind the increase. They explained that those couples may have already been experiencing marital problems. The money, therefore, gave the wives more confidence and autonomy to step away.

They also showed that couples who stayed together after a lottery win were more likely to continue well into the future. They weren’t inclined to seek a divorce, except in certain circumstances.

Give Me Half

The researchers emphasized that according to Swedish law, marital assets are split 50-50 after a divorce. There are exceptions, such as in the case of prenuptial agreements. But this could be a factor in the divorce rates.

Sometimes, the split doesn’t have to wait until after the wedding. A British couple won the lottery two years ago, with the girlfriend’s name on the dotted line to receive £10,000 (US$11,791) a month for life.

After having lived together for over two years before the brush with good fortune, she kicked her partner out and kept the money. Initially, she gave her ex £1,000 per month (US$1,179), but later reportedly stopped that as well.

The NBER researchers also made some other observations that could help lottery winners. They pointed out, based on previous studies, that winners who moderate their spending stay happier for longer. In addition, they found a “positive but statistically insignificant effect on self-assessed mental health.”

That improved mental health also led to reduced dependence on prescription drugs. However, lottery wins played no role in changing alcohol consumption rates.


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