Powerball: 5 Reasons You're Lucky You Don't Have Winning Numbers

Winning the $564 million Powerball jackpot isn't everything.

ByABC News
February 12, 2015, 10:52 AM

— -- If you didn't have the Powerball numbers to win $564 million Wednesday night, don't fret.

Despite this morning’s pang of lottery jealousy across the country, some observers call lottery winners "cursed."

Take Jack Whitaker, winner of a $315-million Powerball jackpot in 2002, who said he wishes he had never won after his teenage granddaughter became addicted to drugs and then was found dead in 2007 of what authorities ruled an overdose. His daughter died in 2009 in another apparent overdose.

"Since I won the lottery, I think there is no control for greed," he told ABC News' "20/20" in 2007. "I think if you have something, there's always someone else that wants it. I wish I'd torn that ticket up."

Here are five reasons why it may be good you didn't win the lottery, or at least you can tell yourself that:

1. Bankruptcy

Economists Scott Hankins, Mark Hoekstra and Paige Marta Skiba studied people who won more than $600 from the Florida Lottery between 1993 and 2002.

Although they found recipients of $50,000 to $150,000 were 50 percent less likely to file for bankruptcy in the two years after winning, relative to small winners, "they are equally more likely to file three to five years afterward."

"Bankruptcy records indicate that even though the median winner of a large cash prize could have paid off all of his unsecured debt or increased equity in new or existing assets, he chose not to do either," the researchers found.

2. Stress

The effect of money on happiness is a popular research topic. Sacerdote noted that happiness from a jackpot is likely a temporary high.

"You see a modest bump in happiness and people get used to whatever their income is," Sacerdote said. "My suspicion, which is based on more general data on income and happiness, is you might not see a permanent bump."

Another group of economists studied winners of the Nationale Postcode Loterij, the second largest national lottery in the Netherlands. They wrote that winning that prize, which amounts to about eight months of income for an average household, "has no detectable effects on a household's reported happiness."

The authors noted happiness is linked to long-term personal income rather than short-term fluctuations, and that may be because "long-term income differences are more likely to be seen as 'earned' and thus legitimate."

In the Journal of Health Economics, authors Jonathan Gardner and Andrew J. Oswald studied a group of British people who received about $1,536 to $307,181. In the year a prize is won, they found that "mental stress goes up, while in subsequent years lottery winners show less stress than non-winners." Of course, the absence of mental stress and happiness are not the same thing, they noted in the paper.

PHOTO: Powerball lottery forms are shown at the Time Saver Food Mart on Feb. 11, 2015, in Tampa, Fla.
Powerball lottery forms are shown at the Time Saver Food Mart on Feb. 11, 2015, in Tampa, Fla.

3. Smaller Is Better?

In the British study, the authors honed down on medium-sized lottery winners, or 137 British winners of between about $1,536 and $184,309. The winners were compared to people who did not win and others with smaller prizes. They found "the medium-size winners go on to have significantly better psychological health."

But, the authors cautioned, the sample size was "fairly small, so it is sensible to be cautious in interpretation."

4. Keeping Up With the Joneses

In the study of Dutch lottery winners, researchers found that a winner's neighbors' consumption patterns changed. In particular, the study noted statistically significant increases on car consumption and exterior home renovations, "both of which are likely to be easily, and repeatedly, visible to a household's neighbors."

People who did not participate in the lottery but lived within a winner's postal code were more likely to acquire a new car in the six months after the lottery win than non-participants living in neighborhoods without a winner. The same was true for major exterior home renovations in six months after the lottery.

5. Dashing Hopes

Knowing a lottery winner may encourage some people to get into the habit of purchasing tickets. It could also turn off others who think the chances of two people in the same community winning a ticket may be slim.

"For most people, purchasing a ticket and fantasizing about what life will be like once you've won is the most pleasant part of the lottery experience," Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist with the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, previously told ABC News. "You could probably flush the same amount of money down the toilet and get much the same result, but then you wouldn't have the dream."

The Dutch study found that people who did not participate in the lottery but are surrounded by households who won the lottery six months ago are less likely to play than nonparticipants who are not surrounded by winners.

The study added that although lottery winnings do not make households happier, they don't make neighboring households less happy.