The Student Loan Mental Health Crisis
Student debt is taking a toll of the mental health of new lawyers.
The ABA’s Young Lawyers Division and AccessLex Institute surveyed 1,084 new lawyers and recent law grads to examine the personal impact of loan debt. A large majority of those surveyed reported that student loans are negatively affecting their mental health with many reporting that their debt is a source of stress, anxiety, depression, and anger, as Law.com reports.
“I lie awake at night worried about whether I will be able to give my children the life my parents gave me, and whether I will ever know the feeling of true financial stability, which is what I was seeking when I went to law school,” one respondent states.
A MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS
The report highlighted the rampant spread of mental health issues due to the student loan debt crisis.
The average law school grad takes on an average student loan debt of $145,550, including undergraduate loans, according to Nerd Wallet.
That hefty debt has, in turn, created a mental health crisis with dire consequences.
“This profession, more than most others, is plagued by mental health and substance use issues,” according to the report. “Some studies have found younger lawyers are more prone to problem drinking and depression. There are numerous factors at play here, no doubt, but these ‘other’ responses raise uncomfortable questions about the relationship between student loans and mental health.”
Law grads surveyed cite their debt as a main source of anxiety and stress.
“I have had immense life stress because my loans make it I [sic] almost impossible to enjoy my career,” one survey respondent states. “It wasn’t worth it even though I’m great at what I do and love the law.”
A CALL TO ACTION
The authors say the report is meant to be a call to action to the higher education industry, a sign that it’s time to re-evaluate student loan advocacy.
“This is not just about numbers; it is about real people who are impacted by large sums of debt in often profound ways,” the authors state.
And while the study merely surveyed a sample of law grads, the authors worry that the scope of the mental health crisis is much greater.
“High student loan debt is all but a prerequisite to becoming a lawyer today; it is not affecting an isolated few,” the authors state. “It is not just a handful of individuals who were reckless financially who hold debt. The scale of the problem is much larger today than it was for previous generations.”