Today’s WSJ has an article about the health dangers associated with investment banking. Much of the article sounds familiar to attorneys:

Every individual she observed over a decade developed a stress-related physical or emotional ailment within several years on the job, she says in a study to be published this month.

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By the fourth year, however, many bankers were a mess, according to the study. Some were sleep-deprived, blaming their bodies for preventing them from finishing their work. Others developed allergies and substance addictions. Still others were diagnosed with long-term health conditions such as Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disorders.

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By the sixth year, the participants, now in their mid-30s, had split into two camps: the 60% who remained "at war" with their bodies, and the remaining 40% who decided to prioritize their health, meaning they paid more attention to sleep, exercise and diet and set limits on how much they allowed work to consume them.

I doubt that this is unique to bankers and attorneys. My guess is that it’s pervasive in all high-stress jobs including the military. Those who cannot find a balance tend to be unhealthy and miserable human beings, regardless of their supposed professional success.

But can there be real balance in a high stress job? Or is “balance” simply learning to manage the stress? These are important questions. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick concludes in his book the Great Cholesterol Con that stress—rather than high cholesterol—is the leading cause of heart disease. If true, the key questions for me are whether managing stress reduces the health risks associated with it and if so, by how much?

The answers to these questions would have a huge impact on whether I would like to practice law until I’m 80 or not past 60.