People who believe in luck are in fact unhappy compared to those who do not, according to new research from the University of Bath.

The recently published study – ‘Do the happy-go-lucky?’ – finds that those who personally believe in luck as a force that influences their lives for good or bad are more unhappy, more pessimistic and more neurotic that those who do not believe in luck.

“Our analyses indicate that happiness is negatively associated with a personal belief in luck,” said University of Bath School of Management Professor Edmund Thompson, who led the team of international academics who conducted the research.

“The happy do not seem to go lucky. To the contrary, a personal belief in luck as an entity determining outcomes is found to be linked with pessimism and negativity rather than to a cheery, carefree and optimistic disposition. These results hold true even after controlling for the effects of age and sex”.

However, while the study, based on data from 844 respondents, finds that belief in luck is not positively associated with happiness, its analyses also reveal that belief in being personally lucky, in the sense of having been personally fortunate, is indeed linked to happiness.

“We find that people seem naturally to make an unconscious distinction between, on one hand, believing in luck as an agentic phenomenon capable of determining their lives and, on the other, considering themselves ‘lucky’ in the sense of being fortunate purely by random chance,” said Professor Thompson.

“Those who irrationally believe in luck as an agentic phenomenon would appear to do so because they are by disposition more neurotic, pessimistic and negative: these are personality traits long associated with lower levels of life-satisfaction, wellbeing and happiness," continued Professor Thompson.

“However, those who think they are fortunate because things have ‘luckily’ turned out well for them, often by complete accident rather than purposeful design, generally believe this because they have a suit of characteristics disposing them to objectivity, logic and gratitude, personality traits found broadly to be linked to higher happiness levels”, he said.

“When it comes to happiness, the saying that the ‘happy go lucky’ may be wrong, but the expression ‘count your blessings’ would seem to be quite right,” concluded Professor Thompson.