CHICAGO, Feb. 3, 2016 – A new, landmark study conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs reveals substantial and widespread levels of problem drinking and other behavioral health problems in the U.S. legal profession.
Posted online in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the study reports that 21 percent of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers, 28 percent struggle with some level of depression and 19 percent demonstrate symptoms of anxiety. The study found that younger attorneys in the first 10 years of practice exhibit the highest incidence of these problems.
The findings of the national study, the most comprehensive ever, represent a reversal of previous research that indicated rates of problem drinking increased as individuals spent more time in the legal profession. When focusing solely on the volume and frequency of alcohol consumed, more than 1 in 3 practicing attorneys are problem drinkers, the study found.
The study compared attorneys with other professionals, including doctors, and determined that lawyers experience alcohol use disorders at a far higher rate than other professional populations, as well as mental health distress that is more significant. The study also found that the most common barriers for attorneys to seek help were fear of others finding out and general concerns about confidentiality.
“This new research demonstrates how the pressures felt by many lawyers manifest in health risks,” ABA President Paulette Brown said. “These ground-breaking findings provide an important guide as the ABA commission works with lawyer assistance programs nationally to address the mental health risks and needs of lawyers."
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