Analysis Suggests Married Women Who Win the Lottery are More Likely to Divorce

Achieving success in a lottery is a dream shared by millions of people around the world. They believe it will bring them a lifetime of joy, but new research indicates a potential disadvantage which many may not have thought of – divorce.

A study conducted by researchers with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in Sweden determined that married female lottery winners are more likely to file for divorce than their male counterparts.

The study found that men and women were similarly likely to experience an enhancement in contentment after winning the lottery. However, women were much more likely to experience a decline in wellbeing. As a result, they often pursue a drastic change in lifestyle, including a fresh start away from their former partner.

Although the divorce rate in the US was as high as 50% at one point, it has dropped in recent years. According to a 2022 study by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research, the percentage has decreased by around 12%, to its lowest rate since 1979.

This decline doesn’t apply to lottery winners, though. Some couples who win the lottery go their separate ways, with the wives usually being the initiator of the divorce proceedings.

The NBER study, which analyzed approximately 500K lottery winners in Sweden, established that husbands generally remain supportive of their wives after a lottery win of SEK1 million (US$89,200) or more. Not surprisingly, single men who win the lottery experience a 30% rise in the likelihood of finding a partner within five years of receiving the windfall.

Female lottery winners take a different path. According to the study, a sudden influx of money “raises short- and medium-term risks of divorce by 3.70 and 2.30 percentage points, respectively.”

The research team, David Cesarini, Erik Lindqvist, Robert Östling, and Anastasia Terskaya, highlighted a crucial factor that may lead to the increase. They emphasized that those couples may already have been experiencing marital problems. The money, therefore, provided the wives with more confidence and autonomy to go their separate way.

The researchers also discovered that couples who stay together after a lottery win are more likely to remain together in the future. They weren’t inclined to file for divorce, except in certain circumstances.

The researchers put an emphasis on the fact that, in accordance with Swedish law, marital assets are divided equally after a divorce. There are exceptions, such as in the case of prenuptial agreements, but this could be a factor in the divorce rates.

A British couple who won the lottery two years ago is a case in point. The girlfriend was named on the ticket, granting her £10,000 (US$11,791) per month for life. After having lived together for more than two years before the stroke of good fortune, she asked her partner to leave and kept the money. Initially, she gave her ex £1,000 per month (US$1,179), but eventually stopped this as well.

The NBER researchers also made some other observations that could help lottery winners. According to previous studies, they pointed out that winners who limit their spending stay happier for longer. Additionally, they found a “positive but statistically insignificant effect on self-assessed mental health,” leading to reduced reliance on prescription drugs. However, lottery wins had no effect on alcohol consumption rates.