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Winning big but feeling no better? The effect of lottery prizes on physical and mental health

  • Bénédicte Apouey
  • Andrew E. Clark

We use British panel data to determine the exogenous impact of income on a number of individual health outcomes: general health status, mental health, physical health problems, and health behaviors (drinking and smoking). Lottery winnings allow us to make causal statements regarding the effect of income on health, as the amount won by winners is largely exogenous. Positive income shocks have no significant effect on self-assessed overall health, but a large positive effect on mental health. This result seems paradoxical on two levels. First, there is a well-known gradient in health status in cross-section data, and, second, general health should partly reflect mental health, so that we may expect both variables to move in the same direction. We propose a solution to the first apparent paradox by underlining the endogeneity of income. For the second, we show that lottery winnings are also associated with more smoking and social drinking. General health will reflect both mental health and the effect of these behaviors, and so may not improve following a positive income shock.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/51570/
File Function: Open access version.
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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 51570.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:51570
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Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/

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  1. Lindh, Thomas & Ohlsson, Henry, 1996. "Self-Employment and Windfall Gains: Evidence from the Swedish Lottery," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(439), pages 1515-26, November.
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  15. James P. Smith, 1999. "Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 145-166, Spring.
  16. Andrew Henley, 2004. "House Price Shocks, Windfall Gains and Hours of Work: British Evidence," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 66(4), pages 439-456, 09.
  17. Taylor, Mark P, 2001. "Self-Employment and Windfall Gains in Britain: Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 68(272), pages 539-65, November.
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