Law is the most stressful profession, newspaper's analysis finds

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The most stressful occupation in the United States is being a lawyer, according to an analysis by the Washington Post of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Washington Post looked at a subset of well-being data collected in four American Time Use Surveys between 2010 and 2021. The surveys asked respondents how meaningful their activities were or how happy, sad, stressed, pained and tired they felt on a six-point scale.

Lawyers were the most stressed, although their professional grouping of professional, scientific and technical workers was on the whole second most stressed, with a rating of 2.7 on the six-point scale. Most stressed were workers in the finance and insurance industry and in the educational services field—with ratings of 2.9.

The industry with the lowest self-reported levels of stress and the highest levels of self-reported happiness was agriculture, logging and forestry. Its stress level was 1.9 on the six-point scale, and its reported happiness was 4.4. Workers in that industry, however, reported the highest levels of pain at work.

The happiness rating for professional, scientific and technical workers was 3.7, which put it in second-to-the-last place, along with the hotel, restaurant and bar industry and the durable-good manufacturing industry. The finance and insurance industry was in last place for happiness—with a rating of 3.6.

Kathleen Parker, a columnist for the Washington Post, noted the findings.

Parker recalled when she was a teenager and asked her father, a lawyer, whether he was happy.

“For some people, happiness is the absence of stress,” her father had said.

In another conversation, however, he said he thrived on stress.

She surmised that lumberjacks, foresters and farmers are happiest because they “spend their time close to nature.” That is also the conclusion of the data analysis, which noted that when respondents were asked to rate their happiest places, the outdoors was tied for second on the list.

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