Our odds of winning the lottery are very small. How small? When the Powerball jackpot recently hit half a billion dollars, experts said the odds of winning were about 1-in-175 million. Basically, we’re more likely to be struck by lightning, attacked by a shark or die from a bee sting, than to win all that money!

So, why do we keep playing, even though, odds are, we’ll never win? Dr. Wendy Walsh is a human behavior expert who says part of it is that we’re lured by a so-called “rescue fantasy.” Because for just a buck, the lottery has the power to change our lives, and save us from our hospital bills, mortgages, or the jobs we don’t like.

There’s also the fact that everyone else seems to be playing the lottery. Psychologists say that when we see our family members and co-workers buying tickets, it motivates us to want to buy them, too. Because generally, people don’t want to be left out. Plus, for one dollar, you have the potential to win millions. But those dollars can add up. Over a lifetime, buying weekly lottery tickets can turn into thousands of dollars wasted!

So, does that mean we’re fools to keep playing the lottery? Not necessarily. A new Carnegie University study shows that the lottery serves an important psychological function for some people. Because part of the joy of living is focusing on what our lives could be. Meaning, the lottery gives us hope, and keeps us feeling optimistic.

But if you’re playing because you think winning lots of money will make you happier, then experts say you’re wasting your time. Because studies show that when major lottery winners are compared with people who did not win, no difference was found in happiness levels between the two groups.

Do you play? Or do you think it's a waste of time and money?