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February 06, 2016

Study: Lawyers have serious problems with booze and depression

Rates are more than three times greater than the general public

Lawyers have outsized problems with booze and depression, according to a new study.

More than 20 percent of licensed lawyers in the Betty Ford Foundation study of more than 12,000 attorneys reported drinking levels considered "hazardous, harmful, and potentially alcohol-dependent."

That’s a rate three times higher than the general public.

A Philadelphia defense lawyer, who came up as a prosecutor, was unsurprised.

“It's the absolute truth. Lawyers are seriously heavy drinkers,” he said.

He called drinking a stress-related attempt at coping and noted his most common drinking partners are other lawyers, especially opposing counsel.

Young lawyers have the worst rates.

Lawyers under 30 have a problem drinking rate of 31.9 percent and junior associates at law firms have a rate of 31.1 percent.

Male lawyers have higher rates of problem drinking than women, 25.1 percent compared to 15.5 percent. 

Not surprisingly, lawyers self-reported a depression rate of 28 percent, more than three time higher than the general public’s depression rate of 8 percent. Anxiety and stress levels are also higher than the general public's.

Mental health goes with alcohol abuse. According to the report: "Our study reveals significantly higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress among those screening positive for problematic alcohol use.

The study concludes:

"These levels of problematic drinking have a strong association with both personal and professional characteristics, most notably sex, age, years in practice, position within firm, and work environment. Depression, anxiety, and stress are also significant problems for this population and most notably associated with the same personal and professional characteristics." 

To access the full study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, click here.

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