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Study of attorneys finds disproportionate amount of alcohol, mental health problems

February 15, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A comprehensive study of attorneys states that the profession outpaces others in the prevalence of alcohol use disorders, and that younger attorneys are particularly susceptible to behavioral health problems.

Around 15,000 attorneys participated in the study, conducted by the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the results contradict previous findings that concluded that problem drinking increased with attorneys' longer tenure in the profession.

The latest study found that 21% of licensed, employed attorneys meet criteria for problem drinking, 28% have some level of depression, and 19% have anxiety symptoms. Alcohol use and mental health issues are more prominent among attorneys than they are for groups such as physicians, the study reported.

“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,” clinician and lead study author Patrick Krill said in a news release.

Krill added, “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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