Associate Sociology Professor Ronit Dinovitzer and PhD Candidate Jonathan Koltai were recently featured in the Canadian Lawyer Magazine discussing their research on mental health in the legal profession. The article highlights the research presented by Professor Dinovitzer and Koltai during a conference hosted by the Action Group on Access To Justice’s "Access to Justice Week." Together with co-author Professor Scott Schieman, Dinovitzer and Koltai recently published a paper in the March 2017 issue of The Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, on the topic of mental health amongst legal professionalstitled The Status Health Paradox.
We have posted an excerpt of the Canadian Lawyer Magazine article below.
High-pressure law jobs linked to depression
| Written By Aidan Macnab
The more lawyers get paid, the more likely they are to experience depression, dissatisfaction with their career choice and work-life balance conflict, according to research released this week.
In a presentation at the Action Group on Access To Justice’s Access to Justice Week, University of Toronto sociology professor Ronit Dinovitzer and PhD candidate Jonathan Koltai discussed their recent work and the imperative for the legal community to meet challenges it faces in mental health.
The sociologists said lawyers experience higher risk of mental illness and addiction. Private sector lawyers in big firms experience significantly more depression than those in the public sector and lower on the income scale. Stress, burnout and anxiety were reported as the most prevalent among lawyers, according to a Canadian Bar Association survey.
In a 2016 study, which surveyed 12,825 American lawyers, in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, 28 per cent of respondents suffered from depression, 19 per cent experienced anxiety and 20 per cent “screened positive for hazardous, harmful, and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking.”
The depression, stress, substance abuse and burnout that plague private-sector, big-firm lawyers with high salaries can be attributed to the hours they work, according to Dinovitzer and Koltai. The hours they work lead to work-life conflict.
“It’s probably not enough to tell people that they should go meditate more or do more yoga,” said Koltai. “The problem here doesn’t start with behaviours at the individual level. It has sources in the way work is organized from the top down, in the organizational climates that require or at least glorify extreme work hours and in those environments that provide very little opportunity for workers to balance responsibilities in their competing life domains.”
Koltai said that if those in the legal profession really want to improve in these areas, the answer will need to come from the top down, in the way work is organized at firms.