A new study finds U.S. attorneys have higher rates of alcohol abuse, depression and anxiety than other highly educated professionals. More than one-fifth of licensed, employed attorneys consume alcohol at levels consistent with problem drinking, compared with 12 percent of other professionals.
The study, co-funded by the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, is published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. It included data from 12,825 attorneys. It is the first major study in 25 years to assess the prevalence of substance abuse among lawyers.
“This is a mainstream problem in the legal profession,” said study lead author Patrick Krill, Director of the Legal Professionals Program at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. “There needs to be a systemic response.” He noted lawyers’ workloads, office culture and unwillingness to seek help put them at high risk for substance abuse. “I haven’t seen a professional population out there with a higher level of problem drinking,” Krill said.
The researchers found 28 percent of attorneys are struggling with some level of depression, and 19 percent show symptoms of anxiety, according to the Chicago Tribune. Younger attorneys in the first 10 years of practice have the highest incidence of these problems.
In a news release, Krill said, “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. Attorney impairment poses risks to the struggling individuals themselves and to our communities, government, economy and society. The stakes are too high for inaction.”