New Twist to 'Making a Living'

Docs, Engineers Live Longer; Employment, Healthy Lifestyle Make the Difference

From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 1, 2003 -- If you want a longer life, better bone up on anatomy or digital design.

A new study shows that medicine and engineering students live longer than arts and law students.

It's likely because they have better employment prospects and healthier lifestyles -- and probably grew up in affluent families, writes Peter McCarron, PhD, an epidemiologist with the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.

His study appears in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

McCarron's study looks at health records collected on 8,367 male students at Glasgow University between 1948 and 1968. He and his colleagues found that:

  • Those who studied science subjects had a substantially lower risk of dying young than those in arts classes.
  • Medical students were least likely to die young -- even though they were the heaviest smokers in college.
  • Those who studied arts subjects or law were the mostly likely to die young -- of lung cancer and respiratory disease.
  • Divinity students had the lowest blood pressure.
  • Medical students smoked the most, followed by law students. Science students were least likely to smoke.
  • Arts students were twice as likely to die from an accident, suicide, or violence.
  • Medical students were the most likely to die from alcohol-related events.

Those who grow up in affluent families are known to have lower death rates than other people, McCarron points out. They're also more likely to choose engineering or medicine as a major.

The findings underscore the importance of employment and income in creating a healthy lifestyle, he adds. Also, they reflect the complexity of health behaviors, he says.

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SOURCES: News release, The Royal Society of Medicine. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, August 2003.
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