Older financial professionals seek solace from stress

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Self-medicating is a young man’s game, unless you’re stressed out and working on Wall Street, apparently. Results of a new eFinancialCareers survey suggest that the longer you work in financial services, the more likely you are to rely on mood changers to manage stress.

U.S. respondents were given 14 different options to indicate how they deal with stress. The most common responses were exercise, spending time with family and friends, and watching television – fairly mundane activities. Then there’s the “other” column, giving respondents the opportunity to provide a stress management technique that we didn’t offer. Roughly one-quarter of the 86 people who provided their own answer said they drink or do drugs to manage their nerves, by far the most common unique response.

Breaking down the numbers, an interesting pattern appears. Roughly 17% of respondents with fewer than four years of experience on the Street said they drink or do drugs to handle stress. The number balloons to 30% for financial services employees with more than five years of experience. Seniority – and responsibility – take their toll.

“The money isn’t always enough to drown out the stress,” said one VP at a U.S. investment bank who admitted their habits have increased. “On those days, you get creative.”

“Taking pills all day to make you faster means you have to drink at night to slow down,” said another veteran investment banker. Aderrall, a prescription amphetamine used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is his drug of choice.

Lifestyles appear healthier in other areas of financial services. Thirty-somethings in consulting, trading and cash equities say they don’t work with anyone who relies heavily on booze or drugs.

Ironically, the second most utilized stress management technique is prayer. As with alcohol and drugs, the older employees get, the more likely they are to pray – by about 40%.

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