Law students among the most mentally stable of undergraduates at top uni

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By Alex Aldridge on

A survey of Cambridge University undergraduates’ mental health has, comfortingly for the future of the legal profession, found law students to be in relatively fine psychological shape. Aside from engineers, law students experience the least depression of any undergraduate at the elite institution, with lawyers of the future also suffering lower than average incidences of eating disorders and insomnia. Students of English, history, philosophy and anthropology are the most troubled…

According to the survey — by The Tab— just 15% of Cambridge law students suffer depression, with an additional 21% of the belief that “they may be suffering” from the illness, leaving 64% definitely depression free. Only engineers (66% of whom are not depressed) are happier. By contrast, a whopping 60% of English students are depressed (40% diagnosed; 20% of the belief that “they may be suffering” from the illness).

Meanwhile, just 13% of law students have possible eating disorders and 8% insomnia. The average figures are, respectively, 16% and 11%. At the high end, 30% of anthropology students have possible eating disorders, and 18% of English students have insomnia.

However, the news wasn’t all good for the legal profession, with law students found to be more prone to anxiety and panic attacks than most. 37% have issues with anxiety (higher than the 35% average) and 13% are troubled by panic attacks (for which the average figure is a fractionally lower 12%). Still that’s healthier than the anxiety rate for English students, which stands at 50%. The highest incidence of panic attacks is among history students, at 19%.

Cambridge University has expressed dissatisfaction with the survey — which received 1,749 responses, a figure that equates to 15% of the Cambridge University undergraduate population — describing it as “informal, unscientific and statistically suspect.”

However, Cambridge University law student Sebastian Salek had a different take, telling Legal Cheek: “The results could easily be skewed by the fact that people with a history of mental illness are more likely to respond. However, it’s pleasing to see that mental illness, which often goes unspoken about, is getting some exposure at a high-pressured environment like Cambridge. It’s reassuring that the mental health of Cambridge lawyers is apparently comparably more sound than most, though.”