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Alcohol and other substance use among medical and law students at a UK university: a cross-sectional questionnaire survey
  1. Paul Bogowicz1,
  2. Jennifer Ferguson2,
  3. Eilish Gilvarry1,
  4. Farhad Kamali3,
  5. Eileen Kaner1,
  6. Dorothy Newbury-Birch2
  1. 1 Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  2. 2 School of Health & Social Care, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK
  3. 3 Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Dorothy Newbury-Birch, School of Health & Social Care, Teesside University, Constantine Building, Middlesbrough, Tees Valley, TS1 3BA, UK; d.newbury-birch{at}


Purpose of the study To examine the use of alcohol and other substances among medical and law students at a UK university.

Study design Anonymous cross-sectional questionnaire survey of first, second and final year medical and law students at a single UK university.

Results 1242 of 1577 (78.8%) eligible students completed the questionnaire. Over half of first and second year medical students (first year 53.1%, second year 59.7%, final year 35.9%) had an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) score suggestive of an alcohol use disorder (AUDIT≥8), compared with over two-thirds of first and second year law students (first year 67.2%, second year 69.5%, final year 47.3%). Approximately one-quarter of medical students (first year 26.4%, second year 28.4%, final year 23.7%) and over one-third of first and second year law students (first year 39.1%, second year 42.4%, final year 18.9%) reported other substance use within the past year. Over one-third of medical students (first year 34.4%, second year 35.6%, final year 46.3%) and approximately half or more of law students (first year 47.2%, second year 52.7%, final year 59.5%) had a Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale anxiety score suggestive of a possible anxiety disorder.

Conclusions Study participants had high levels of substance misuse and anxiety. Some students’ fitness to practice may be impaired as a result of their substance misuse or symptoms of psychological distress. Further efforts are needed to reduce substance misuse and to improve the mental well-being of students.

  • medical students
  • alcohol drinking
  • substance misuse
  • psychiatry
  • mental health

Statistics from


  • Contributors DN-B was the chief investigator, project manager and study guarantor. All members of the team helped to design the study, which was based on previous work carried out by DN-B and FK. JF collected and entered the data. PB analysed the data. All authors had access to the data. All authors contributed to the writing of the paper and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by the host university. The funder had no role in the design of the study, collection of data, analysis of data, interpretation of data, writing of the paper and the decision to submit the paper for publication.

  • Disclaimer DN-B affirms that the manuscript is an honest, accurate and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted and that any discrepancies from the study as planned have been explained.

  • Competing interests All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form. EK has disclosed that she is employed by the host university. All other authors declare no support from any organization for the submitted work, no financial relationships with any organizations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years, no relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

  • Ethics approval This study obtained ethical approval from the host university (reference number 00730/2014).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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