Attorneys Have Higher Rates of Alcohol Abuse and Depression Than Other Professionals

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.”

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    February 11, 2016 at 4:04 PM

    This are descriptive statistics that frequently change with time. For example back in the seventies while I was going through college Psychiatist had the highest rate of suicide ( I can only assume that this would likely be pair with depression) At that time studies where not too concerned with alcohol or other substance consumption.

    The suicide rate was blamed on psychiatrist listening to people’s problems. Stress on the job and numerous other negative conditions. There was no real data to support any of it as I recall. But most mental health workers were willing to extrapolate for which they didn’t have any data it was just assumed.

    When a few years later a similar study was done. They found that psychiatrist no longer held first place in these studies. Dentist took the lead amongst the high rate of suicide. But people had no idea why a profession like dentistry would have such high rate of suicides.

    We have a hard time thinking that descriptive statistic only describes information and in order to come up for a cause, we should just be guessing what the conditions maybe.

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    Tom B

    February 4, 2016 at 1:58 PM

    Having been down the addicted to alcohol and depression road, I am thankful my partners steered me to rehab and counseling. The excessive use and reliance upon mood altering drugs is deadly. Follow up includes for me a 12 step program and continuing discussions with therapists. Go slower and enjoy the day!
    Our State Bar also is proactive in encouraging dealing with a too common attorney illness. Thanks for highlighting what many are in denial as to a serious situation for stressed attorneys.

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