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Stress issues highlighted by LawCare survey

24 August 2012

A significant problem with stress among practising lawyers is emerging from the initial responses to a survey by the lawyers' support charity LawCare.

Although the study is not yet complete, analysis of over 800 responses received to date shows that 66% say that they have suffered from stress in the past, and 32% have suffered from clinical depression. It is also notable that more lawyers said they had suffered an eating disorder (6%) than those who admitted to alcohol abuse (4.5%). Only 29% had never suffered from any emotional or addiction related impairment.

Moreover, 40% of respondents admitted to drinking to excess at least once a week, with 3% drinking more than the recommended number of units every day. In addition, 10% take prescription drugs to alleviate stress, or its symptoms, every day, but 97% of respondents said that they never take illegal drugs, and the remaining 3% do so only “occasionally”.

When asked whether they were currently suffering from stress related issues, 55.5% responded that they were under extreme stress, and 20% that they were currently suffering from clinical depression or another mental illness.

Asked about trends, 73.5% of respondents said they were more stressed in their work now than they were five years ago, and 16% had taken time off work due to stress in the last year, while 46% suffered symptoms of stress, such as headaches, at least once a week.

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The most common reasons given for stress were being overloaded with work (60%), feeling isolated and/or unsupported (52%), poor management including lack of appreciation (51%), and long hours (39%).

Despite this, 63% said that they would be concerned about reporting their stress at work to their employer, generally because their employer would view it as a sign of weakness or inability to do the work, wouldn’t care anyway, and it might negatively affect their future employment prospects.

On a more positive note, although 70% of respondents said their workplace was a stressful environment, and 44% said that they had insufficient support there, the majority seem to have a much better home life, with 58% saying that their home life is happy, and 90% reporting that they had sufficient support from family and friends, while 60% manage to make quality time for themselves at least once a week.

Although 78% of respondents reported that they worked late at least once a week, 65% felt at least once a week that they weren’t working to the standards they wanted or achieving what they needed to.

The survey remains online and LawCare is looking for further responses from lawyers in the UK and Ireland, including legal executives and paralegals. Click here to take part.

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