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Are lottery winners really living the dream?

ByKatharine Cook

Mar 1, 2017

What would you do if you won the lottery? Just about everybody has an answer to that question. Between providing for your family, buying your dream home or quitting your dreary nine to five slog, there’s something for everybody. However, the reality may not be so appealing.

In July 2007 Jane Park, an Edinburgh resident, won a million pounds from Euromillion at the age of 17. Despite initial elation, Park has claimed that her win has brought her anything but happiness. Park is the youngest ever winner of a Euromillion lottery and believes that at 17 she was too young to receive such a large sum of money. Since her win she has been campaigning for an increase in the age limit for purchasing a lottery ticket.

In an interview with Sunday People, Park said: “I thought it would make it [life] 10 times better but it’s made it 10 times worse. I wish I had no money most days.’

“People look at me and think, ‘I wish I had her lifestyle, I wish I had her money.’ But they don’t realise the extent of my stress. I have material things but apart from that my life is empty. What is my purpose in life?”

Park initially stated her wish to sue the company Camelot who gave her the money, but has since reconsidered to focus on advocacy for an age limit of 18 for lottery participation. The real life consequences of coming into such a large sum of money at a young age are rarely spoken about, unsurprising as it’s hardly a common experience.

Camelot, the lottery company behind her win, released the following statement in response to her claims: “Camelot doesn’t set the age limit to play – this was agreed at the launch of the National Lottery back in 1994, and so any questions about the legal age to play would be a matter for Parliament.”

Camelot continued by describing the support that they provided Park after her win: “An independent financial and legal panel was set up shortly after her win, and we put Jane in touch with another winner who won at the same age, to share their experience and help Jane adjust to the win.”

This has raised the question of whose responsibility it is to look after a winner’s welfare after they receive the money. Is it the lottery company responsible, as they provided the winnings, or is Park for buying the ticket?

Not having to worry about rent, your paycheck or the property ladder may seem ideal for a young person in 2017 but this actually separated Park and other young winners from their contemporaries, isolating them from what can be an admittedly stressful experience but also one that connects young people in a sort of mutual panic.

The win has also gathered a lot of publicity that has surrounded Park, granting her an element of celebrity status and thus taking away her privacy, again isolating her from her peers.

Studies have shown a limited correlation between wealth and happiness. Psychologists from Princeton University completed a study in 2010 finding that wellbeing correlated with an increasing income up to $75,000 annually but as income increases past that, wellbeing does not.

A sudden increase in personal wealth places a huge amount of responsibility on a winner, whatever their age. Family members could become reliant on you or charities could get in touch, creating pressure to give away your money. This is why many winners choose to remain anonymous, keeping the information to themselves and their close friends or family.

Altogether, the cliche may ring true: Money doesn’t always buy happiness.

Image: PublicDomainPictures

By Katharine Cook

An undergraduate Psychology student with a passion for strong coffee and student journalism. Lifestyle editor.

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