New Study Reports High Rates of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Problems Among Lawyers

mental-healthA new study involving more than 12,000 lawyers has found high rates of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and stress among members of the American legal profession. See Patrick R. Krill, Ryan Johnsonn & Linda Albert, The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys, Journal of Addiction Med., Vol. 10, Issue 1. (Feb. 2016). This study is the first to consider these issues in over 25 years. The raw data is disturbing:

  • 20.6% of licensed lawyers screened positive for hazardous alcohol-dependent drinking, with men and younger lawyers (those in the first 10 years of practice) having a higher proportion of positive screens.
  • 28% experienced depression.1
  • 10% experienced anxiety.
  • 23% experienced stress.

The study’s conclusion:

Attorneys experience problematic drinking that is hazardous, harmful, or otherwise consistent with alcohol use disorders at a higher rate than other professional populations. Mental health distress is also significant. These data underscore the need for greater resources for lawyer assistance programs, and also the expansion of available attorney-specific prevention and treatment interventions.

For Louisiana lawyers, the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (“JLAP”) provides “free, confidential assistance to lawyers, judges, law students, other legal professionals, and their families in addressing substance abuse, mental health issues, age, and other stressors which impair or may impair an attorney’s ability to effectively practice law.” Among other things, JLAP offerss “assessment, information and referral, interventions, consultation, education, monitoring, and lawyer support groups.”

  1. “These mental health concerns manifested on a similar trajectory to alcohol use disorders, in that they generally decreased as both age and years in the field increased.”