The effect of a life changing event

Heard an interesting discussion on studies of people who experienced a life changing event.

ID-100211545Two groups were studied. Members of one group had suffered major catastrophe, mainly accidents resulting in some degree of paralysis. Those in the second had experienced unexpected good fortune. Winning a large prize on the lottery, getting an unforeseen inheritance.

I was driving at the time so could not write down the references nor absorb all the details. However the conclusion that made me take notice was:

Within a year of the life changing event, most members of both groups in the study had returned to similar levels of happiness as before the event.

The majority of those that got a financial windfall had enjoyed a period of elation then gone back to a level similar to before.

Most of the accident survivors had been depressed and unhappy for a period, then accepted their situations. After a year, they were also back to about the same level of happiness as before their accidents.

Although the majority in both groups shared the same transitions, others did not. Other research shows that some lottery winners squander their windfalls and end up considerably worse off than before. Some enjoy more lasting, higher levels of happiness.

Amongst accident survivors, some never get over the after effects, others report living more rewarding and happier lives despite the lack of mobility and its effect on their independence.

What is interesting is that the result and the timing of both types of a life changing event are similar.


It is because the majority in both groups realise over the course of that first year that the effect of the event on their lives is largely determined by their responses to it, not the event itself.

They choose to accept it, good or bad, deal with it then make the most of it.

We would think that after receiving a financial windfall, most people would be happier for longer than a year, probably for life.

It would also be natural to assume that most people suffering some permanent physical handicap would be less happy with their lives for a longer period.

Seems that it is not the case. Whether adversity or good luck, the effect is only temporary, how we choose to deal with a life changing event, is what counts.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

My book 5 Steps To Thriving On Adversity  is selling well, get your copy before it’s sold out.

graphic courtesy Stuart Mile / free digital



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  2 comments for “The effect of a life changing event

  1. Roberta
    April 26, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    I don’t know who said it but living is like licking honey off a thorn. I have learned that life is cyclical. After a down time a good time comes. Just be patient because the bad always leads to something much better.

    • Peter
      April 29, 2016 at 9:31 am

      Thank you for quoting “like licking honey off a thorn” Roberta, I had never heard it before. Another, which I imagine is typically American, I heard since moving here is “as busy as a one-armed wall paper hanger in a windstorm”.

      You are correct, the bad does inevitably lead to something much better – if we allow it to and choose to accept the lessons from the bad parts.

      What I found interesting though is the reference to the similarity of the time it took to return to a previous level of happiness for both positive and negative events.

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