Lawyers are often portrayed as insensitive, emotionless machines that care about nothing else except their cases. This is product of our pop culture, as that is the preferred way to portray them in movies for the sake of drama, tension, what-have-you. But that portrayal is only half true, as it turns out that lawyers have increased alcoholism and mental issue rates.
The reason I said that the fictional depiction is only half true is because according to the study, few things matter more to young, aspiring lawyers than their cases – including their own physical and mental health.
Obviously, being a lawyer is very competitive. The younger and less experienced you are, the more competition you have, and the more you have to work in order to even be noticed among the sea of law graduates. There are multiple reasons for the lawyers’ tendency towards alcoholism, though.
First of all, the very high stress levels and very low satisfaction that comes from the job warrants a certain personality type. These personality types focus more on work than on anything else, regardless of stuff like their own health.
Second of all, there is a cultural factor to the levels of alcoholism present in most lawyers. This comes from most firms’ encouragement that the young lawyers go out drinking with their customers in order to get them to open up, and also to socialize.
With all of these factors, it would have been highly unlikely for the profession not to have so many issues with overdrinking. Plus, the addictive nature of both the substance and the personality type ensure that when they go drinking, they don’t do so just to socialize, they tend to do it in order to escape the hard realities of their jobs and lives.
By surveying over 12,000 lawyers across 19 of the United States, the researchers from the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation revealed that 31.9% of lawyers under 30, and 31.1% of junior associates have issues leading back to alcoholism.
But the bad news doesn’t stop there, since as much as 28% of the interviewed lawyers suffer from depression, 23% suffer from stress, and 19% of them suffer from severe anxiety. For reference, the average rate for the regular population getting depression in a year is of 8%, between three and four times lower than for lawyers.
This study has led to open debates about starting treatment interventions addressed specifically at lawyers in order to help them deal with their many psychological, physical, and emotional issues.
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