The image of the tortured artist may be true?researchers have found that science and medical students live longer and healthier lives after graduation than art students do. This is despite the fact that the biggest smokers and drinkers are medical students.

Peter McCarron examined the medical records of 10,000 men who attended Glasgow University between 1948 and 1968 and found that science, engineering and medical students had a lower death rate than art students. However, medical students had the largest number of alcohol-related deaths and deaths from suicide or violence. As students, they were also the heaviest smokers, followed by lawyers.

But it was the art students who got the most lung cancer and heart disease. “We speculate that medics changed their social habits after leaving university,” McCarron says. “They would have had access to the studies which came out around that time and probably realized the benefits of (quitting).”

Emma McIlroy writes in New Scientist the high incidence of alcohol-related deaths and suicides among medical students probably reflects the long hours and stress of medical training. The lower death rates from all causes among the scientists, engineers and medics could be, McCarron says, because “we believe they probably found it easy to gain employment and therefore had more job stability and a better income.”

Family background may also be part of it, since art students were more likely to come from poorer families which tend to be less educated about health.

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