Science and medicine students go on to live longer and healthier lives than those studying other subjects, according to a survey of men attending university between 1948 and 1968.
Peter McCarron, at Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland, and colleagues examined the medical records of nearly 10,000 male graduates of Glasgow University. The researchers found that science, engineering and medical students had a substantially lower risk of mortality than arts students.
However, medical students went on to have the largest number of alcohol-related deaths and death from suicide or violent means. They were also the heaviest smokers as students, followed by lawyers.
Nonetheless, arts students had greatest risk of contracting lung cancer or a cardiovascular disease. “We speculate that medics changed their social habits after leaving university,” McCarron told New Scientist. “They would have had access to the studies which came out around that time and probably realised the benefits of giving up.”
The high incidence of alcohol-related deaths and suicides among medics could reflect the long hours and stress suffered by doctors, he says. But the researchers write that perhaps the overall lower mortality among medics may be “some compensation for the reported unhappiness in their profession”.