Jill Layton
February 07, 2016 10:26 am

Lawyers who feel constantly stressed are definitely not alone. It’s somewhat of an epidemic.

A study done by the American Bar Association alongside the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has found that 33% of practicing lawyers in the United States are heavy drinkers, with 28% of them suffering from depression, while 19% have experienced symptoms of anxiety. The results of the study show that lawyers in America have a serious drinking problem and live with depression and anxiety far more than any other profession.

The findings of the study were published in this month’s edition of the Journal of Addiction Medicine: “The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys”.

According to the researchers, lawyers drink to a level considered “hazardous, harmful, and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking.” Patrick Krill, clinician and lead author of the study, confirms that the study validates the prior unsupported view that the well-being attorneys is at a serious risk.

Researchers surveyed more than 12,000 licensed lawyers from 19 states around the United States. The lawyers were asked questions about their drinking habits and mental health. The researchers found that the rate of heavy drinkers among lawyers was shockingly higher than the 15% of surgeons and doctors who have problems with substance abuse.

Paulette Brown, the American Bar Association President, said the pressures and stress felt by lawyers often manifest in health risks. Since depression affects 28% of lawyers, it’s clear that the mental well-being of lawyers is suffering.

“Studies have shown that most lawyers are pessimists (either by nature or by training) which can be psychologically taxing and inconsistent with healthy coping skills,” Krill wrote.

According to NH Voice, Krill added “we found rates of depression are also significantly higher than the general population.” And the same goes for anxiety.

“Any way you look at it, this data is very alarming, and paints the picture of an unsustainable professional culture that’s harming too many people,” Krill said. “Attorney impairment poses risks to the struggling individuals themselves and to our communities, government, economy and society. The stakes are too high for inaction.”

It’s very possible the health issues are stemming from the cultural environment in law firms. According to the study, lawyers working in law firms had the highest rates of alcohol abuse. Junior associates reported the highest rate of problem drinking, and senior associates and junior partners were close behind.

Being aware of the study doesn’t mean anything will change in the environment for lawyers, but knowing is certainly a step in the right direction.

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