Women lawyers are more stressed and drink more than men, study finds
Overworked female lawyers have more mental health issues and engage in high-risk alcohol use at a higher rate than their male colleagues, according to a survey of nearly 3,000 lawyers in California and the District from Columbia.
The study released Wednesday by the California Lawyers Association and the DC Bar found more women testing positive for dangerous alcohol consumption than in the past. About a third, or 34%, reported high-risk or unsafe drinking, compared to 25.4% of men. This is a snapshot showing a trend reversal generally finding that men engage in drug abuse more frequently.
More and more women find themselves in a “materially worse situation in every way,” said study co-author Patrick Krill, an addiction and mental health expert.
The study follows a report by the American Bar Association in April that the pandemic has caused more women to consider leaving the profession, in part due to stress related to work-life balance.
The California and DC Bar study conducted from June to August found that the fallout from the pandemic was not specific to outcomes. The findings suggest, however, that the underlying work and personal stressors that have long been part of the legal profession are more related to the deterioration of the situation of female lawyers.
The burden of lawyers’ workload “has a clear impact on mental health,” Krill said.
The study found that levels of mental health issues and problematic alcoholism were quite high among practicing lawyers in general, a persistent and well-documented problem in the profession.
More than half of the 2,863 practicing lawyers surveyed tested positive for high-risk alcohol consumption and 30% for high-risk alcohol consumption.
Hazardous alcohol use consumes more than prescribed guidelines, while high-risk drinking equates to consumption that is harmful to physical and mental health, Krill said. Almost 56% of women said they drink at risk, compared to 46.4% of men.
One in four women have considered leaving the legal profession because of mental health issues, compared to 17% of men.
The higher stress levels experienced by female lawyers were surprising, Krill said. A 2016 study of lawyers’ mental health and addiction issues found that men suffered more from depression than women. The same study found that 39.5% of women versus 33.7% of men reported problematic alcohol use.
The study found that young lawyers experience more stress, which is similar to the results of other highly stressful professions. Law schools should play a role in helping students prepare for the way ahead, he said.
Burnout, mental health
The legal profession, which has long focused on work over quality of life, has only recently taken steps to tackle burnout and mental health issues.
Krill said there has been anecdotal evidence of women leaving the profession earlier, but the study found that work-family conflict is “clearly predictive” of this trend.
“For women, work-family conflict had the highest odds ratio for association with the possibility of leaving the legal profession due to mental health, stress or burnout. professional, ”the study found.
For men, over-engagement at work was “an important predictor of leaving the profession due to mental health, burnout or stress in men,” the study said. Men with excessive commitment to work “were more than twice as likely to consider leaving the profession because of their mental health.”
However, men who saw an opportunity for promotion were less likely to leave due to burnout, the study found. But this is not true for women, he noted.
“One could assume that women often anticipate fewer opportunities or chances of promotion, which makes this possibility less relevant for their calculation of leaving the profession for reasons of mental health,” the study said.
The disparity in promotions has been cited in studies as a factor that prompts women to leave the profession.
While the legal profession is “on the road to progress” in improving the welfare of lawyers, the seeds have only been sown, Krill said. Changes need to happen, including making the legal profession more supportive of women and families, he said.